“I will always be grateful to Alexander Lukashenko for not recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” Mikheil Saakashvili, the ex-president of Georgia, whom Kiev appointed as Odessa Governor, said in Warsaw on December 22.
“I have no impression that Lukashenko waged an anti-Ukrainian policy,” Saakashvili said. “He had very good relations with Viktor Yushchenko, while with Yanukovych’s government he had a conflict. Lukashenko restrained Russia’s pressure very good, especially at the first stage of the war. Then, it would be more dangerous for Ukraine if Belarus joined the war.”
Saakashvili says Lukashenko was once under severe pressure of the Kremlin, according to the Polish Radio. “He was not just blackmailed, he was offered one billion dollars to support the country’s economy that was in very poor state (it has big problems at present too). The only condition was to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia. However, Lukashenko did not do it, despite Russia's pressure. I cannot forget it. It was very important for a small country like Georgia. You should understand this. I am well aware of the problems with Lukashenko’s government. All of us understand this. However, like in the case of Georgia, when Ukraine needed that Belarus take a neutral stand – Lukashenko did it,” the ex-president of Georgia said.
“At the same time, I am sure that the people of Belarus has a fantastic capacity to develop democracy and live in freedom. Simply, there were specific political conditions. I do not refuse my actions. It was very important then that Belarus take the stand it took. I will always be very grateful for that,” Saakashvili said.
In his words, this August at the meeting with Belarus Foreign Minister Vladimir Makey, he discussed the need to increase the number of Belarusian tourists to Odessa. “To that end, Belarus has already opened a new flight of ‘Belavia.’ We start actively advertising tourism. We had a very friendly meeting. I was surprised at how hospitable Makey was. We discussed the most complicated issues. We have almost no disagreements concerning the situation in the region. It was amazing. What we saw exceeded my hopes,” Saakashvili said.
EADaily reported earlier that at their meeting on December 11, Foreign Ministers of Belarus and Georgia, Vladimir Makey and David Jalagania, hailed the “high level of mutual understanding and trust.” Earlier this April, Alexander Lukashenko travelled to Georgia and had a meeting with President Giorgi Margvelashvili. He thanked his Georgian counterpart for his support and for the support of Mikheil Saakashvili who is wanted in his motherland. Lukashenko has special ties with Saakashvili. These relations became even warmer after the war in South Ossetia and Minsk’s refusal to recognize independence of the two republic of the Transcaucasia.
“We got acquainted with Saakashvili when he was president,” Lukashenko said later. “I have many times thanked him - no one fought for us in the West the way Saakashvili did. He used to tell to the vice president, president of America that they behaved wrong to Belarus. He said that no sanctions must be imposed on Belarus, as it is a normal country with normal presided.”
WikiLeaks published a telegram of the U.S. Embassy in Georgia to Washington dating back to September 2009. It says that Saakashvili told U.S. Department representatives that Lukashenko hates Vladimir Putin and is afraid that Belarus will not resist the economic pressure of Russia. In response, the U.S. diplomats promised to coordinate their actions with the EU representatives not to let Belarus recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
It should be recalled that Russia’s official ally Belarus – a member of the Union State – refused to recognize independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and even Crimea’s unification with Russia. Lukashenko refused to deploy a Russian air base in Belarus. At the same time, the Belarus leader nearly immediately recognized the junta that came in power in Ukraine through a coup d’etat as legal power of Ukraine and called Oleksandr Turchynov as “president.”