Meeting with Governor of Russia’s Kostroma Oblast Sergei Sitnikov

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Direct ties with Russian regions are becoming an increasingly important factor in strengthening the bilateral economic cooperation between Belarus and Russia, President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with Governor of Russia’s Kostroma Oblast Sergei Sitnikov on 7 February.

The head of state stressed that without close interregional cooperation, Belarus and Russia would never have had such close, allied relations. “We cannot do without the economy because it is the foundation of any relationship. They reproach me for looking for benefit. But if if you did not seek benefit, perhaps, you would not have come here. Yes, we have always been friends and brothers, but in order to have brotherly relations forever, we need the economy as the basis,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President pointed out that many Belarus-made products contain a considerable amount of Russian raw materials and components. At the same time, stable operation of respective enterprises in Russia depends significantly on the situation at Belarusian plants.

Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that over the past two years, the trade within the EEU suffered a significant decline. “The mutual trade between Belarus and Kostroma Oblast used to exceed $100 million. However, over the past two years we saw a considerable decline in trade, which I am very concerned about,” the head of state said. “I voice my concerns, but see certain misunderstanding or rejection from Moscow and even from some people in Minsk. Anyway, we need to talk about this, work on the points of discord and improve our relations. Meanwhile, instead of diffusing the tension, they have imposed a ban on the supplies of Belarusian beef to Russia. How should we understand this?” the Belarusian head of state noted.

“Of course, we will survive this. The world is globalized today. Yes, losing the Russian market or something else will be difficult. But we will not lose the entire market. Even if Dankvert wants it, this will not happen. However, I do not understand what for it is needed. I cannot understand why they are doing this,” the President said.

The attempts to deliver products using grey schemes are regularly exposed. “But what does Minsk Oblast have to do with this?” Aleksandr Lukashenko wondered. “Why do you ban anything without a thorough examination?”

The President cited a positive example of cooperation between Belarus and China in the organization of delivery of beef to the Chinese market.

The head of state also mentioned the delivery of processed agricultural products to the Russian market. “What rules do we violate here? We buy and process products. We can also buy meat in Ukraine or Poland, process it at our enterprises, manufacture new products and export them to all markets,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He emphasized that not many enterprises process imported raw materials in Belarus. The majority of them use Belarusian farm products.

“I am starting to think that the issue is about politics – they are afraid of losing Belarus, which is a 1,000km-long corridor,” the President remarked. “I have started to persuade them to get this idea out of their heads. I say this in public.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that when he had become president the country was facing the choice to deepen integration with the West or to preserve the economic ties with Russia which had been developed in the Soviet Union. “I chose the latter. This is the answer to the question where Lukashenko turned or is turning – to the West or to the East. I also initiated the referendum to decide whether we should be with or without Russia. More than two thirds of our people unanimously said that they wanted to be with Russia,” the head of state stressed.

During the talks the sides discussed the development of cooperation in various fields, including in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, mass media. Special attention was drawn to the increase in the delivery of Belarusian automobile products to Kostroma Oblast. In this context, the President gave an instruction to mull over the establishment of a single service center for Belarusian equipment in the Russian region.