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‘Let them run’ Lukashenko speaks about Russians leaving the country to escape the draft
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has met with Vladimir Putin today in Sochi. The Russia 24 TV channel broadcast Lukashenko’s opening speech at the meeting. Comparing the current mass exodus of Russians attempting to flee the mobilization to the mass migration of Belarusians in 2020–2021, Lukashenko suggested that “it’s necessary to decide what to do with them” if those people were to return to Russia later.
“This isn’t an easy period,” he began. “The world has turned upside down, so to speak. There’re different kinds of people, both here and there,” he said, referring to Belarus and Russia.
So, thank goodness, perhaps. There’s a certain watershed, a criterion — for us, it was 2020, for Russia, it’s happening now — that reveals who is who. There’s nothing bad about this.
In the 2020 Belarusian presidential election, Lukashenko was officially proclaimed the winner, triggering mass protests across the country, by people convinced that election results had been falsified. The police brutally suppressed those protests. In October 2020, more than 13,000 people left Belarus, according to the country’s Ministry of the Interior. Belsat reported, too, that in June and July 2020, Poland granted 12,000 humanitarian visas to Belarusians. Lithuania was reported to have granted 6,700 humanitarian visas to Belarusians fleeing repressions at home, between January and late November 2021.
Referring to Belarus for comparison, Lukashenko went on:
Here, I’m watching things — they’re bruiting mobilization, and some people have fled across the border. But listen, Russia has 25 million [people] of mobilization resources. Alright, 30,000 have already fled, maybe 50,000. And if they had remained? Would they support us? Let them run. I don’t know how you feel about this, but I didn’t especially worry in 2020, when several thousand left. Now they’re asking to come back. Most of them do, “please let us in.”
“And these, too, will come back,” he added, in reference to the Russian citizens presently leaving Russia.
But it’s necessary to decide what to do with them. Either they come back, or let them subsist as they please over there. Sorry to talk about this so openly. It’s just not right to act this way. You can come to an agreement at home, instead of running all around Europe and America, the way they did during the Bolshevik revolution and afterwards. This is a different situation.
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