19 Jun 2020 14:53

Lukashenko on Belgazprombank case: massive plan to destabilize Belarus thwarted

MINSK. June 19 (Interfax) - The Belarusian authorities have managed to thwart a massive plan to destabilize Belarus, which involved "foreign puppet masters," Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said following the detention of former Belgazprombank CEO Viktor Babariko.

"We've finally managed to take certain preemptive steps and thwart a massive plan for Belarus's destabilization (this is neither a joke nor an act of intimidation), as well as a certain Maidan-style unrest in the country. That was the objective. Not just the puppets that we have here, but also the puppet masters outside Belarus have been unmasked," the Belarusian state-run news agency BelTA quoted Lukashenko as saying at a meeting on banking sector issues on Friday.

Lukashenko said he "will not allow anyone to break the country." "I want you to understand that I will never allow anyone to break this country, either as a president who performs his duties consistent with the Constitution or as a man who has invested his life in building this independent and sovereign state. I want you and others to understand me. A sovereign and independent Belarus is my greatest value. I will do whatever it takes to preserve this state," he said.

"Nowadays, all political interests are focused on Belarus, both those of the West and those of the East," Lukashenko said.

The president said he suspects certain forces of having the intention to destabilize the country. "From what I've seen over the past day, I can tell that certain forces have sprung into action and started to intensify and unsettle the country. We've been observing that for a long time," he said.

On Thursday, Belarusian State Control Committee chief Ivan Tertel called Gazprom representatives 'puppet masters' after Babariko was detained. "We, for our part, know that the puppet masters behind his actions fear that our activities might enable us to obtain information confirming their responsibility for this unlawful activity. We know that these people are big bosses at Gazprom, or perhaps even higher," Tertel said.

Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said when commenting on a statement by the Belarusian State Control Committee, "The interests of Russian companies, especially economic giants, are always protected by the Russian state."

"Obviously, certain arguments need to be presented in this case. Allegations of the kind brought against reputable international companies cannot be unsubstantiated; they need to be supported with arguments," Peskov said.

The Belarusian State Control Committee detained Babariko on Thursday. According to Tertel, Babariko "was the direct organizer and mastermind of illegal activity."

In turn, Belarusian Prosecutor General Alexander Konyuk said that the actions of the Belgazprombank case defendants jeopardized the national security interests of Belarus and announced the opening of a new criminal case on counts of establishing a criminal enterprise.

Babariko's son Eduard was detained together with his father on suspicion of tax evasion.

The Belarusian presidential election will take place on August 9.