20 May 2020 19:02

Ex-Belgazprombank board chairman planning to run for president in Belarus denies Russia having interest in his campaign

MINSK. May 20 (Interfax) - Viktor Babariko, former board chairman of Belgazprombank, who is seeking to run for president in Belarus, has denied any links to or contacts with Russian entities in preparing for his election campaign.

"I am thankful to the shareholders [of Belgazprombank, Gazprom, and Gazprombank] for being able to relieve me of my duties [as Belgazprombank board chairman] within just one day. There have been no contacts with them since then," Babariko said at a press conference in Minsk on Wednesday.

"If you imply Russian interest in my campaign, I can tell you for sure, there is none whatsoever," he said.

Babariko said he has seen the Russian president and the head of Gazprom in person only a few times in his entire life.

The Belarusian Central Elections Commission (CEC) registered a group of activists to nominate Babariko as a presidential candidate on Wednesday.

Babariko's campaign staff includes 8,905 people. This is the second largest group of supporters among all potential presidential candidates, following that of incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko, which numbers nearly 11,500 people.

Babariko has headed Belgazprombank since mid-2000. He left his post after announcing his decision to run for president. He has worked in Belarus's banking system since July 1995.

The CEC finished accepting applications to register groups of activists nominating their candidates for president on May 15. The CEC accepted a total of 55 such applications for consideration (a record in the entire history of presidential elections in Belarus) and registered 15 groups of activists.