Meeting with Saint Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko

    There are positive trends in trade between Belarus and Saint Petersburg. Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed it out at the meeting with Saint Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko on 27 November.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko noted with satisfaction that in 2013 Belarus-Saint Petersburg trade totaled $1.9 billion. In 2014 the figure is expected to reach $2 billion. In January-September a 9% increase in comparison with 2013 was registered. “It is a good tendency. Let’s hope it will continue,” the head of state said.

    “It is good that we have made the transition from direct trade to the creation of joint projects, primarily in the sphere of manufacturing cooperation. It is an important direction and we will support it,” noted the President. He added he was talking about projects to create passenger, road construction, and municipal vehicles and the shipment of these vehicles from Belarus to Saint Petersburg if necessary.

    The head of state was also satisfied with cooperation in agribusiness. Food and raw agricultural materials account for about 40% of Belarus’ export to Saint Petersburg and constitute 10% of Belarus’ total food export to Russia.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko said that Russia’s actions to restrict Belarusian export are saddening.

    “I am not just surprised but saddened by the behavior of the Russian authorities these days. If trade between the two countries does not go back to normal soon, we will be forced to respond,” the Belarusian leader noted.

    “Do you know what offends me? If, for instance, Kazakhstan and Belarus face the same problems, one phone call is enough to fix the problems for Kazakhstan. It seems to me that once again, using natural gas, oil, and now food as leverage, they are trying to show something, to teach a lesson to somebody or the entire world, using Belarus as an example. But we are not puppies to be pulled by the scruff of our necks, pardon me for this rudeness,” the head of state said.

    “We have the law in place, customs agreements, we will start working as part of the Eurasian Economic Union tomorrow. What kind of hindrances to merchandise trade can there be?!” wondered the President. Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that the sides have agreed that commodities, cargoes, and workforce should be moved without any barriers. “In essence we are one country. Why are you doing it?” the Belarusian head of state said.

    “If you believe we have violated something, we can address the situation without any scandals,” the Belarusian leader added.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that he is now closely monitoring these matters. “We have not acted to address these issues for three months but now I see that the issues are not being dealt with,” the President noted. “Don’t put pressure on us. We are and we will be your reliable friends. But if you start squeezing us, you know that I won’t tolerate it,” he added.

    “And then, I don’t understand whether you are doing it on purpose in order to raise prices in the Russian Federation. We are selling merchandise to you at the lowest possible prices. But the shortage of products, particularly meat products on the Russian market, leads to an increase in prices. Why are you doing it? I can’t comprehend it,” the President noted.

    “We are told directly that we process the raw materials that we buy from the West. But we have reached an agreement with the president of Russia and the prime minister that our doing so does not violate the embargo,” continued the Belarusian leader. “Frankly speaking, when today the West is between rock and a hard place and is ready to give away the raw materials at dumping prices, we are thankful. If Belarus earns 100 million within one year, is it a lot of money? Is it a bad thing if we do?” Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that Belarus has to repay loans to Russia.

    “If someone on your side wants to profit from the situation, want to raise prices, we don’t like it. We should protect the nations. Today Russians are having a hard time, with prices rising on a daily basis,” the President noted. “There is a problem with buckwheat in Novosibirsk. We can send 120 tonnes to Novosibirsk right away. We are trying to fix your problems, while you are starting to choke us. It is a wrong thing to do”.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that Belarus is trying to help reduce merchandise prices in Russia by offering cheaper Belarusian products. He suggested that the Russian side should deal “with all kinds of cheats that profit from it, with money-grubbers and so on”.

    “It is necessary to remove all kinds of barriers. You know how many friends we have across the globe. And you know the views of other nations. This is why, let’s not lose each other’s shoulder,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

    “Don’t think that Belarus is smaller than Russia and is good for nothing. We are capable of accomplishing a lot. And we have never abandoned Russia. We will not abandon Russia in the current situation, too. We are not going to profit from this situation. It is our Russia and we will protect it the way we protect our territory,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that cooperation between Belarus and Saint Petersburg can be an example for other Russian regions to follow. “I would like our cooperation to be an example for the entire Russia — in civil engineering, in culture, and in healthcare,” the Belarusian leader said.

    “Belarus and Leningrad Oblast have suffered most over the course of their history. No other people can be more alike. Our relations are shaped with this in mind,” stressed the President. After the Great Patriotic War a lot of specialists from Leningrad Oblast came to Belarus to restore the destroyed country. Aleksandr Lukashenko thanked Leningrad Oblast for all the good things it does for Belarus today, too.

    In turn, Georgy Poltavchenko drew attention to Belarus’ good treatment of veterans, including those that live in Saint Petersburg.