Aleksandr Lukashenko meets with Yaroslavl Oblast Governor Sergei Yastrebov

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Belarus and Yaroslavl Oblast have agreed to enhance cooperation. The statement was made at the meeting between President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko and Governor of Russia’s Yaroslavl Oblast Sergei Yastrebov on 30 January.

“Industrial cooperation is one of the most promising cooperation avenues. It opens up great opportunities for ambitious joint projects. Belarus is ready to keep expanding such cooperation,” the head of state said.

He suggested elaborating cooperation projects that would make the most of the industrial, scientific, technological and human potential of Belarus and Yaroslavl Oblast.

Yaroslavl is home to a number of R&D centers engaged in applied research. Therefore, the President deems it necessary to consider cooperation in science and education, implement high-tech projects and introduce innovative solutions.

Belarus is ready to ramp up cooperation in agriculture, including in animal breeding and crop production.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that Yaroslavl Oblast is now increasing housing construction and putting more efforts into infrastructure development and road maintenance; therefore, cooperation in this field can be promising, as well.

Speaking about the trade with Yaroslavl Oblast, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that Belarus has a trade deficit here. “Naturally, Belarus would like to rectify this misbalance,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The Belarusian head of state emphasized that there are many industries where cooperation will be highly beneficial for Belarus and Yaroslavl Oblast. “We can and should consider the projects that you would like to implement in Belarus. I really hope that the visit will result in concrete agreements and projects. I told the government about it and I think we will keep working the same way,” the President added.

“I have just mentioned joint integration projects. I will tell you honestly that very often the Russian political establishment accuses us of not wanting to implement joint projects. I would like to say we are in favor of integration, but everything should be done as it is done in Yaroslavl,” the Belarusian leader said. He cited close cooperation between companies of Belarus and Yaroslavl Oblast, in particular supplies of Yaroslavl engines which are widely used in the Belarusian engineering industry.

“Integration does not mean buying our enterprises, oil refineries for a song. I have always said that they have to pay a fair price if they want to buy them,” the Belarusian head of state said.

“Why should the governments discuss such project? This should be done at the level of companies,” the President believes.

“One should understand that Belarus is not rich as to hand out its property, especially its strategic assets. Belarus aims at integration and this integration should be practical, not in word. It means concrete projects of concrete companies,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that if for example MAZ wanted to have closer ties with the Yaroslavl plant, including the exchange of assets, it would be understandable. “If some senior official shows an interest in our company and says that we must get together to fight... Fight against whom? We have a single market. We can divide it without the exchange of shares,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

According to the President, any such project should aim, first of all, at modernization, and second at the advancement to new markets with joint products. "To do idle talking about the integration is not right. It is like trying to grab a company in another country for a song. Of course, we would never agree to such approaches. We would like this to be honest and open, and to know the objectives of such integration projects,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that since the Soviet times Belarus and Russia have had close cooperation ties. "We have never given up on deep integration with the Russian Federation, with any region of Russia. We would find common ground with the regions and governors much faster than with the Russian Government," the President said.

“I often say that if not cooperation with the regions of Russia, we would not have had any Belarus-Russia Union State or close relations. Maybe we would bicker like they are doing now in Ukraine. In the time when there was no understanding with Russia’s central government, the regions saved the Belarusian-Russian relations. There were times like these,” the Belarusian leader added.

Sergei Yastrebov, for his part, said that Yaroslavl Oblast cooperates with Belarus in a number of programs and areas. The major area, however, is diesel engines construction. “For us the notion of integration turned into real cooperation long ago. We would like to continue such cooperation and develop it on the basis of new financial and economic relations by offering your country our new competitive product line,” the Governor stressed.

Apart from that, the delivery of gas-power engines is one of the most promising areas of cooperation. “This year we are ready to come up with a set of gas-power engines produced by Yaroslavl Motor Plant which are designed to substitute traditional diesel-driven engines. Thus it is possible to cut fuel costs by 50%,” Sergei Yastrebov noted. “The major thing for us is to acknowledge that this is our joint brainchild born on Belarusian soil with the Yaroslavl heart,” Sergei Yastrebov added when speaking about cooperation with Minsk Automobile Plant.

The Governor stressed: “We manufacture a joint project, a joint brand that should be competitive. And together we should do our best to promote it on the domestic and foreign markets – in Russia, Ukraine, Venezuela and other countries.

The Governor went on saying that Yaroslavl Oblast is ready to step up cooperation in such areas as petrochemistry, petroleum processing and agriculture.

First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko informed those present at the meeting about the measures to find balance in the mutual trade. At present the import of goods from Yaroslavl Oblast is much bigger than the export from Belarus. Such issues were on the agenda of the first meeting of the taskforce supervising cooperation between Belarus and Yaroslavl Oblast. The cooperation development program for 2014-2016 was signed after the meeting.

The sides discussed the prospects of cooperation between Yaroslavl Oblast’s companies and MAZ, MTZ, BelAZ, Gomselmash. Participants of the meeting focused on such issues as the pricing policy in mutual supplies, import substitution, quality and competitiveness of products.

Vladimir Semashko pointed out the possibility to implement a project to make buses using Yaroslavl-made engines in Yaroslavl Oblast. Participants of the meetings also discussed the prospects of making Belarusian dump trucks in Yaroslavl Oblast, boosting the export of Belarusian agricultural equipment and elevators to the Russian region.

The Belarusian side suggested organizing Belarusian food fairs in Yaroslavl Oblast.

The First Vice Premier of Belarus believes there is a huge cooperation potential in the construction industry. Belarusian specialists could fulfill contracts for the turn-key construction of industrial and social facilities in Yaroslavl Oblast.

Speaking about import substitution, Aleksandr Lukashenko said that Belarusian machine-building companies had to import expensive hydraulic equipment and components. At present Amkodor jointly with foreign partners is implementing a project to produce cutting-edge hydraulic devices. At least a half of the company’s produce will be exported. “Fueling equipment is another concern. However, it would make no sense to launch the construction of such plants because there are necessary facilities in Yaroslavl. We will promote the production of gas engines. It would be great if you joined the project because it seems a very promising one,” the head of state noted.

The President believes it is necessary to fit municipal equipment with gas engines to save fuel.

Addressing the Yaroslavl Oblast delegation, Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “You have chosen a good moment because now we can do a lot. It is a pleasure for us to work with Yaroslavl Oblast.”

At the end of the meetings with the Yaroslavl Oblast Governor Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed: “Our task is to supervise the fulfillment of all agreements.”

The President said that Belarus  is ready to do its utmost to step up cooperation with Yaroslavl Oblast.