West ‘obsessed’ with imposing its own version of democracy in Belarus, country’s FM claims, urging closer ties with Russia instead

When it comes to protest-hit Belarus, the US and EU are intent on imposing their own systems and values with no regard for the country’s own journey to democracy, its foreign minister has said, after successive waves of sanctions.

Vladimir Makei told state-owned All-National TV on Thursday that the West has his nation in its sights. “There is this kind of fixation on promoting and installing democracy,” he said, “at least in their understanding of the word.”

“Yes, democracy is necessary,” the diplomat argued, “there are certain democratic norms that we are all bound by.” But, he added, when it comes to the development of political systems at the national level, “noble goals should not be achieved by ignoble methods.”

“In the end,” Makei insisted, “we will all arrive at this admirable state. Some might get there faster than others, but you need to take into account the different ways that nations develop and their cultures.” This, he said, has been the source of “a number of problems in relations between the West and Belarus, but also [between the West] and Russia.”

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Relations with Belarus’ vast eastern neighbor, he said, are improving, with a growing recognition of the need to move past the principle of ‘you owe me, I owe you’. He claimed that it was thanks to hostile foreign policy from the West that Minsk and Moscow are seeking closer ties and greater integration.

Makei’s acknowledgement that his country may have some way to go in strengthening its democracy comes after veteran Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko insisted he was the legitimate victor of the presidential election last year. Opposition figures, and many international observers, however, claim that it was rigged in his favor, and tens of thousands have since taken to the streets to call on him to stand down.

The EU and US have condemned the violent crackdown on demonstrators that followed, and in December, Brussels unveiled a package of sanctions against officials it says are responsible.

Earlier this month, two journalists from Warsaw-based Belsat TV, presenter Katerina Bakhvalova and camerawoman Daria Chultsova, were each handed two-year prison sentences for supposedly participating in the protests. They maintain, however, that they were simply reporting on a rally which was held after Roman Bondarenko, 31, was allegedly beaten to death by police. Minsk officials have since opened a criminal case into the officers’ conduct.

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