Lukashenko Says May Have 'Overstayed A Little' in His Post as Belarus President

Lukashenko Says May Have 'Overstayed A Little' in His Post as Belarus President

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Alexander Lukashenko said that he may have 'overstayed a little' in his post as Belarus' president, but added that he believes that only he is capable of defending his nation from the threats it faces at this time.

"Yes, it's possible that I've sat in the president's chair a little too long. It's possible that I'm being shown not only on TV, but from every iron and tea kettle. But in truth only I can protect Belarusians right now," Lukashenko said, in an interview with Russian journalists on Tuesday, Sputnik reported.

The Belarusian president suggested that the ongoing protests in his country have been organized by the United States, which operates through Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as a small nascent 'bourgeoisie' class in Belarus itself, whom he said "want power."

He added that the protest organizers' ultimate goal was to affect Russia. "You must understand that those who are doing this need not us, but you," he said.

Commenting on the harsh way in which some protesters, as well as foreign and opposition journalists, were treated during the first few days of protests, Lukashenko said that there were some 'excesses', but promised that these would be investigated and dealt with. He added that riot police could not be blamed for doing their job and defending the country.

The president also said that he was personally upset by the protests and their scale, but that he understood that some Belarusians have forgotten how their country looked 20 years ago, during the 90s.

Asked to comment on his unexpected appearance with an assault rifle in front of Independence Palace in Minsk last month, Lukashenko said it was meant to send a signal to the opposition.

"My appearance with an assault rifle had only one meaning: to say that I did not run away anywhere and was ready to defend my country to the end," Lukashenko said.

Lukashenko noted that he does not rule out early presidential elections following referendum-approved changes to the constitution. "We are ready to carry out a reform of the constitution. After that I won't rule out early presidential elections," he said.

The president added that whatever happens, he could not just leave his post. "I won't just leave. I have been building Belarus for over a quarter of a century. I won't just give it up. Besides, if I leave, my supporters will be slaughtered," he suggested.

He added that he considered security forces decision to detain opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova Tuesday morning as she attempted to cross the border between Belarus and Ukraine as correct. Kolesnikova, a member of the Belarusian opposition's so-called 'coordination council', and two other members of the council were detained on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border Tuesday morning after their BMW attempted a high-speed maneuver to break through a border checkpoint to escape Belarus. Other members of the opposition, including presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, fled the country earlier to Lithuania, where she has since met with European and US officials and made efforts to coordinate the opposition.

Belarus has been rocked by weeks of protests following the August 9 presidential election, in which incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko won his sixth term in office with 80 percent of the vote. The opposition declared their candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya the winner and have demanded a 'peaceful' handover of power.

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