( August 29, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) In an interview in St Petersburg on Friday, the Belorussian President, Alexander Lukashenko, rebutted accusation of ruling his country like a dictator.
The president said: "I can prove right here, right now, that there is no dictatorship in Belarus. Shall I? It's very simple, in just a few words. This is the argument I use to convince my Western partners. In order to be a dictator, like Stalin, one has to have the resources. Resources are paramount, you need to understand that. Do I have any nuclear weapons? Exactly, I do not. Do I have as much oil as Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela? No. Do I have as much natural gas as Russia? None at all. And so on and so forth. Do I have so many people as China does? 1.5 billion people? No. In order to be a dictator and dictate one's will one has to have the resources: economic, social, military, population, and so on. But we have none. And I am being objective about it. I am telling you that we have no claims of global importance and do not see ourselves solving major global problems. We do not have the resources to do so. What we want to do is find our place in the sun and live as an average civilized European state. That's all I want."
Lukashenko has ruled Belarus since 1994 following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the country's independence in 1991. The president has been called 'the last European dictator' by former and current US and European leaders, and in 2012 the EU extended sanctions against his country saying that the Lukashenko government had failed to improve its human rights record.
Lukashenko travelled to Russia on Friday to meet with President Vladimir Putin for talks about a number of cross-border trade and cultural initiatives. Belarus is heavily dependent on Moscow, with large Russian investment in the country. Prior to his visit it was reported that President Lukashenko's meeting with Putin was part of negotiations over a $2bn loan to inject new life into the Belorussian economy.