Cablegate: Lukashenka's Visit to Vilnius
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHVL #0495/01 2671344
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 241344Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY VILNIUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3752
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000495
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/24/2019
TAGS: LH PGOV PHUM PREL BO
SUBJECT: LUKASHENKA'S VISIT TO VILNIUS
Classified By: CDA Damian R. Leader for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).
1. (C) ...
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000495 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/24/2019 TAGS: LH PGOV PHUM PREL BO
SUBJECT: LUKASHENKA'S VISIT TO VILNIUS Classified By: CDA Damian R. Leader for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).
1. (C) Summary. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka recently concluded his first visit to Lithuania since 1998. During the September 15-16 visit, Lukashenka met with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and other officials and delivered a speech at the Lithuania - Belarus Economic Forum. Grybauskaite emphasized to Lukashenka that the GOB needs to show progress on the EU's Five Conditions for Belarus before November in order for the EU to continue suspension of its sanctions. She also expressed concern regarding the GOB's plan to build a nuclear power plant near the Lithuanian border. Both Presidents signed several agreements on the administration of their countries' border region. End summary.
--------------------------------- Lithuania Emphasizes Human Rights ---------------------------------
2. (C) On September 18 Grybauskaite's foreign policy advisor Darius Semaska discussed the Lukashenka visit with Charge, and poloff further discussed the visit with MFA's Belarus Division Head Laurynas Jonusauskas on September 22. Semaska said Grybauskaite's meeting with Lukashenka was divided into three parts, each of about 45 minutes: a tte--tte; a meeting with foreign ministers and advisors; and a final meeting with full delegations and other Ministers including the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Transportation. Grybauskaite raised the EU's Five Conditions in all three meetings, and this issue took up more than half of each meeting. According to Semaska, Lukashenka's reaction to the EU Conditions was alternately moderate and aggressive depending on the tone of the conversation.
3. (C) Jonusauskas told poloff that President Lukashenka dismissed the Five Conditions as minor issues and countered that "if the EU does not want us they will not see us." He said that Lukashenka further claimed that there are no political prisoners in Belarus and that Belarus has more freedom than Lithuania with respect to human rights and EU requirements. He quoted Lukashenka as saying that "God and time will judge us and we will see who is right." Despite Lukashenka's rhetoric, Grybauskaite later told Semaska that "he got the message" on human rights. Semaska explained that delivering a strong message on human rights was the principal reason that Lukashenka was invited to meet Grybauskaite, though he noted that the price Lithuania paid in exchange was giving Lukashenka a "platform for him to demagogue." Jonusauskas added that the GOB has been hard hit by the economic crisis, and opined that one motivation for Lukashenka's visit was to seek possible EU funding to help bridge Belarus' budget gaps.
--------------- Border Concerns ---------------
4. (C) Jonusauskas said that President Grybauskaite expressed concern regarding the GOB's plan to build a nuclear power plant just 50 kilometers from Vilnius and 20 kilometers from the Lithuanian border. She also raised concerns that the plant may pollute the nearby Neris river which flows into Lithuania. According to Semaska, Lukashenka replied that the proposed location was better for geological and technical reasons and asked if Lithuania wanted to participate in the plant, which could be enlarged to provide for all of Lithuania's needs. Grybauskaite told him, "don't have any illusions" and that Lithuania's goal is to integrate with the western electrical grid, and Belarus' plant would not further that goal. They also discussed electricity transit agreements for third countries (presumably Ukraine) and importing oil through the port of Klaipeda to Belarus.
5. (U) Jonusauskas confirmed that the two presidents signed an agreement on the state border regime and a Lithuania, Belarus and Poland pact on state border intersections. News reports mentioned that a third agreement which would have facilitated cross-border travels for inhabitants living on the Lithuania - Belarus frontier was not signed during the visit, at Belarus' insistence.
--------------------------- Russia, Ukraine and Georgia ---------------------------
6. (C) FM Usackas asked Lukashenka's opinion about Russia,s leadership. Lukashenka said that he thought Medvedev was gaining more strength and is equal in power with Putin. He thought there is uncertainty within the Presidential administration and government about who will be the real boss in the next year or so. Jonusauskas said that Lukashenka VILNIUS 00000495 002 OF 002 seemed frustrated with the situation complaining that he did not know who to talk to anymore. According to Jonusauskas, Lukashenka expressed his desire for Belarus to be a bridge between the EU and Russia but specified that the EU should not tell Belarus what to do.
7. (C) Lukashenka suggested he and Grybauskaite hold a trilateral meeting with Ukrainian President Yushchenko in December to show their support for Ukraine's independence. She declined. Jonusauskas said that Lukashenka also urged the GOL to support Yushchenko in the January election.
8. (C) Jonusauskas said that in one of the larger meetings, FM Usackas told Lukashenka that he was glad the GOB has not recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia and that such recognition would have had negative repercussions for Belarus' participation in the Eastern Partnership. Lukashenka did not comment on this issue. Semaska said that the Russian press later reported that Lukashenka said the issue would go to parliament in October and later he would consult "the people", but Semaska said that was never said in the actual meetings with the Lithuanians.
9. (C) According to Semaska, Lukashenka demonstrated complete mastery of all the issues, never had a note in front of him, and none of his aides ever said a word in the meetings. He revealed that Lukashenka also told Grybauskaite that he sympathized with her for taking over a country that her predecessor allowed to fall into poverty, and he commented on how poor the countryside is between the border and Vilnius (Semaska agreed that road is not scenic but that it hardly reflects the nation's economic development). LEADER