News2020.04.17 17:59

Belarus is changing its 'liberal' approach to coronavirus – Lithuanian president

BNS, 2020.04.17 17:59

Previously dismissing the Covid-19 pademic, the Belarusian leader is changing his attitude to the coronavirus crisis, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said on Friday.

While Belarus was previously approaching the coronavirus crisis "too liberally", Nausėda says he sees "a certain change in the neighbouring country's stance". There's a change in rhetoric, according to the president, "but I will avoid judging those nuances".

Read more: Like after Chernobyl, people in Belarus kept in the dark – opinion

In early April, Lithuanian officials said the coronavirus situation in Belarus was a cause for concern. Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis also said the country could be "an uncontrolled hotspot" of the disease.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko previously said that he could not see the virus flying anywhere, and suggested that "tractors" and work "in the fields" would heal everyone. He also said Nausėda should take care of "your virus".

Read more: Vilnius and Minsk in war of words over coronavirus handling

Weeks later on April 13, Lukashenko backtracked on his words, saying it was a joke. Meanwhile Lithuania banned passenger cars from entering from Belarus as a response to Minsk's management of the health crisis.

"Belarus and its government are responsible for the management of the coronavirus in their country, and we are [...] in our country," Nausėda said on Friday. "We will do everything to have no external or internal threats to our health."

Despite everything, a dialogue with Belarus is necessary, Nausėda said.

"We will continue the dialogue" as "trains with goods continue to go [from Belarus] to the [Lithuanian] port of Klaipėda, and the economic cooperation continues," he said.

The Lithuanian president also said that the construction of the Astravyets nuclear power plant close to the Lithuanian border remained a contentious issue. The launch of the plant that Vilnius considers unsafe has been delayed again earlier this month.

Read more: Launch of Belarus’ nuclear plant near Lithuania delayed again

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