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Persistence lands exclusive interview with Belarus president

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, left, is interviewed by Ian Phillips, AP vice president for international news, at the Independence Palace in Minsk, Belarus, May 5, 2022. (AP Photo / Markus Schreiber)

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The efforts of this AP all-formats team were rewarded with an exclusive, agenda-setting session with President Alexander Lukashenko, the authoritarian leader of Belarus, in his first in-depth interview since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Senior Moscow Producer Tanya Titova worked for more than two years to secure the interview, conducted by Ian Phillips, AP vice president for international news. The sit-down was recorded by Moscow camera operator Kirill Zarubin and technical assistant Sergei Fedotov, with still images by Berlin chief photographer Markus Schreiber.

AP text reporters Daria Litvinova and Yuras Karmanau delivered alerts as the nearly 90-minute interview progressed, watching remotely via a live signal. Their write-up of the interview,including Lukashenko’s description of the war as “dragging on,” made headlines and was used around the world.

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The AP team covering the interview with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, from left: Kirill Zarubin, Sergei Fedotov Tanya Titova, Ian Phillips and Markus Schreiber, posing in front of a billboard for Victory Day in Minsk, Belarus, May 5, 2022. – AP Photo

Titova,with the help of Harriet Morris,news director for Russia and CIS,had to navigate increasingly difficult negotiations with Belarus authorities before landing the interview. As late as the night before the taping,the whole interview appeared in danger of being canceled, but calm diplomacy by the AP pair reassured Lukashenko’s handlers and the interview went ahead as planned.

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