Aleksandr Lukashenko meets with Amur Oblast Governor Oleg Kozhemyako

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Belarus is ready to render aid to help restore Russia’s Amur Oblast after flooding. The statement was made by Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko as he met with Governor of Russia’s Amur Oblast Oleg Kozhemyako on 3 February.

At the meeting in addition to discussing matters of strategic cooperation the head of state suggested talking about current interaction between Belarus and Amur Oblast, including strategic matters. “I think that problems relating to last year’s floods are abundant in the Far East, more so in Amur Oblast,” the Belarusian leader remarked. “You should know that in difficult times I instructed the government to respond to any requests from your side. But in view of the considerable distances between us we are not going to accomplish everything. If today we can mend something, let’s do it. If we make arrangements for spring or summer, tell me which ones and we will advance in this direction,” he added.

“You must know that you are no strangers for us. We are proud of the fact that the geographically remote land is very close to us. We will always be responsive to any requests of yours for cooperation,” the Belarusian President assured.

Amur Oblast Governor Oleg Kozhemyako, for his part, underlined that Amur Oblast residents feel the warmth and care of the Belarusian side in a difficult time. “The timely delivered humanitarian cargoes were given to people in need. It made our relations even tighter. Our citizens felt that the Belarusians are brothers that lend a helping hand in a difficult time,” the Governor said.

In particular, Oleg Kozhemyako noted that thanks to the timely deliveries of forage harvesters from Belarus, even without payments in advance, they had managed to procure the required forage. Nevertheless, the flood affected the mutual trade and plans to advance cooperation in 2013. Since all the quarries were flooded in the oblast, the shipment of agricultural machines and mining machines dropped. “But life goes on. Although we are in the recovery phase, we understand that we have to develop,” the Governor said.

In his words, there is a good offer for supplying Belarusian mechanical engineering products, forage harvesters, and tractors to Amur Oblast. “We need all of that, centers have been opened. We will smoothly return to the volumes that were reached in 2012,” Oleg Kozhemyako added.

The Belarusian side also expressed readiness to step up cooperation with Amur Oblast in the shipment of agricultural machines, mining, construction, road machines, forest harvesters, municipal vehicles and other ones. Apart from that, dealership centers and centers to service the vehicles may be set up.

Speaking about agricultural cooperation, the President suggested implementing one or two pilot projects to set up dairy farms in Amur Oblast, provide Belarusian equipment and technologies.

“It is a breakthrough for agriculture. This year we have exported about $6 billion worth of agricultural products. I remember empty shelves 15 years ago, we had nothing to eat back then. We have fed our nation. In 2015 we are supposed to export $7 billion worth of agricultural products,” the head of state said. In his words, the modernization of dairy farms was the engine for changes in milk and meat processing. “It is a good scheme. I advise you to start with an agro-town, perhaps,” the President said.

Oleg Kozhemyako remarked that there are problems with the availability of milk in Amur Oblast, including powdered milk and several kinds of dairy products. Therefore, the proposal made by the Belarusian side is truly interesting.

Agriculture and Food Minister of Belarus Leonid Zayats remarked that the possibility of setting up a joint venture to process milk and sell dairy products in Amur Oblast and neighboring countries, in particular, China, is already being considered. The establishment of warehouses and logistics centers is also under consideration.

Another promising avenue of cooperation is the construction industry. The Amur Oblast Governor suggested that Belarus participate in the construction of the Vostochny spaceport. It is a long-term project set to run until 2030. “We are ready to offer Belarusian specialists all the necessary working conditions,” Oleg Kozhemyako said.

First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Vladimir Semashko suggested a comprehensive approach to the matter. He believes that Belarusian construction builders could also take part in the construction of a town for about 40,000 people and the associated infrastructure near the spaceport.

Speaking about the recovery of the damage caused by the flood in Amur Oblast, Vladimir Semashko noted that Belarus is ready to do the highway design, ship the necessary road construction machines and deliver housing sets to build housing for people affected by the flood. Such houses can be manufactured and supplied within a month. If Amur Oblast is interested, Belarus can build an entire town.

 “Give us a separate land plot and we will build a beautiful Belarus-style town,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The Amur Oblast Governor got interested in the idea. He said he considers comprehensive development of an entire area. He might also invite Belarusian specialists to construct residential housing along the Baikal-Amur Mainline. Oleg Kozhemyako would also like to study Belarus’ expertise and knowledge in building social and sports facilities in small towns.

At the end of the meeting the President stressed that the cooperation with Amur Oblast is interesting for Belarus. “It is so especially in the crisis period. You are aware of the situation in the global economy and in Russia in particular. Given the Russian Federation is Belarus’ top trade partner, figures in the machine building industry shrank a little bit. Therefore, now we have to promptly diversify trade and branch out into other markets,” the head of state noted.

“There are no obstacles for our cooperation,” Aleksandr Lukashenko concluded.