The president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has said he had always called Kaliningrad “mine” during a meeting with officials from the Russian exclave in which he took aim at the West.
During Monday’s meeting in Minsk with the governor of Kaliningrad, Anton Alikhanov, and his delegation, the Belarusian leader described those living in Russia’s westernmost region as “the people closest to us.”
Once part of East Prussia when it was known as Konigsberg, the territory was annexed by Moscow after the defeat of Nazi Germany. Bordered by Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea, it is isolated from the rest of Russian Federation.
Soon after President Vladimir Putin‘s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the government in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, started to implement European Union sanctions that blocked around half of the goods being imported by rail into the exclave, sparking anger from Moscow.
Lukashenko said that “the unprecedented attempt” to limit the free movement of goods by rail and road transport both from Russia and Belarus “was doomed to failure.”
“No matter how hard they try to divide us with artificial barriers, it will not work,” Lukashenko said, according to state news agency Belta.
In comments during the meeting which were tweeted by Ukrainian internal affairs adviser Anton Gerashchenko, Lukashenko also said that Belarus “was responsible for the Kaliningrad region in the Soviet Union to speak.
“That’s why I always called it mine,” he said, “I was afraid that Russians wouldn’t think that.
“We were pretending to take over the Kaliningrad region there, although it would have probably been no worse if the Kaliningrad region had been closer,” he added in the clip to officials who were smiling, suggesting that it was being interpreted as a light-hearted comment.
Next to the video, which as of Tuesday afternoon had been viewed 93,000 times, Gerashchenko wrote, “Lukashenko suddenly reminisced about his warm feelings for Kaliningrad region of Russia.” Newsweek has contacted Russia’s Foreign Ministry for comment.
Although he has refrained from getting Minsk directly involved in Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Lukashenko is a close ally of the Russian leader who uses Belarusian territory as a staging post for the war.
The Belarusian leader’s appearance follows speculation about his health with Belarusian opposition figure Valery Tsepkalo claiming last month that he had been taken to a Moscow hospital after meeting Putin.
Lukashenko was absent for several days after Victory Day commemorations in Moscow on May 9 marking victory over Germany in World War II.