Negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin

  • 6
  • 2

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin on 11 April.

The talks lasted for about four hours. The heads of state discussed the development of cooperation between Belarus and Russia in various fields. They also focused on the regional and international agenda, the coordination of efforts to respond to the existing challenges and threats. The President discussed security issues and the situation in the Ukrainian direction.

“We have something to talk about. I mean our economic relations. They are making good progress. We posted good economic growth last year and we maintain momentum,” said the Russian leader. “We have made substantial progress in diversification, cooperation and mutual complementarity. In general, we have made great strides in every aspect. And we are very happy about it.”

Vladimir Putin said that Aleksandr Lukashenko I, of course, aware of the state of affairs in the Ukrainian direction, but the Russian leader referred to the Belarusian head of state’s visit as an opportunity to inform him about the details.

The head of state noted that during their recent meetings, the parties have always discussed the situation in Ukraine, including the possibility of a peaceful settlement.

"If they want to talk about peace in Ukraine in Switzerland (they call it a peace conference) without us, they are welcome. Our position is that they can only agree on ways to escalate the conflict. Without Russia, what kind of peace process can there be? There can be no peace process," Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

"Maybe they are right not to invite us there. What can we talk about with them if they are trying to gather more than a hundred states there and dictate something to us? This is not a proposal for peace talks," the Belarusian President noted.

Vladimir Putin, in turn, noted that the opposing side "drove itself into a corner, to a certain extent, when it refused to negotiate in the hope of defeating Russia on the battlefield, inflicting a strategic defeat on it."

"Now they understand that this is impossible. They refused to negotiate. Now they are in a rather difficult situation," the Russian leader said.

"But our goal is not to put everyone in a difficult position. On the contrary, we are ready to work constructively. They cannot impose any position that is not based on realities," Vladimir Putin stressed.

During the talks Aleksandr Lukashenko expressed confidence that today everything is in place for negotiations on peace in Ukraine.

"I absolutely support the position of the current Russian leadership and your position on the peace process. I absolutely support it: today everything is in place for sitting down and coming to an agreement," Aleksandr Lukashenko is convinced. “They don't want to. It's clear why they don't want to. Should people overseas want to talk about peace, their voice will be heard in Ukraine."

"Therefore, Ukrainians, especially ordinary people, should know that this does not depend on us. The ball, roughly speaking, is in the court," the President added.

The head of state recalled how the peace talks began: three rounds were held in Belarus, and the fourth one took place in Istanbul. Both countries came to certain agreements, drew up a draft but the negotiations were disrupted.

"They came and said to fight to the last Ukrainian!" Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

"They need to be reasonable: take the document (that you once showed me), put it on the table and work on it. This is a sensible position. There is an acceptable position for Ukraine as well. They were ready to sign it after all," the Belarusian President said. 

"Of course," Vladimir Putin confirmed.

"I absolutely support the peace process, which Russia has never refused from, including today. If we can play a role in this, you know our strengths. We will always be there for you and act together with you and at the same frequency," the Belarusian leader assured.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that at some time some in Russia even reproached Vladimir Putin for not hitting Ukraine where it hurt, in particular the energy system.

"You said then (maybe it was in a military way): 'Listen, I feel sorry for people. Kindergartens, schools. If the energy sector in Ukraine collapses, children and people will suffer." 

The Belarusian head of state also cautioned the Ukrainian side. "You strike sensitive points in Russia, then be ready for an appropriate response. I think there are a lot of crazy people in Ukraine, but not all of them are that. I think they understood what’s coming and will do some rethinking in this regard. They are simply provoking Russia to carry out such strikes," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He said that he does not justify Ukraine in this regard. "Not at all. There is no need to escalate. Summer goes by quickly. Winter will come."

"I think, Vladimir Vladimirovich, that your initiatives for a peaceful settlement of the conflict will find a response in Ukraine. Strange as it may seem, in the military. Here I am ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with you and work in this direction," the Belarusian leader stressed.

“They are screaming and shouting that Lukashenko and Putin will take over Europe tomorrow. We have never discussed plans to take over someone. We have enough of our own problems,” said the Belarusian head of state.

Vladimir Putin doubled down on that: “This is nonsense, the ruling circles are saying this just because they need to explain and justify their funding of the war in Ukraine. That’s all.”

“And their own failures,” added Aleksandr Lukashenko.

“First of all, their spending. This is the main reason why they are amplifying this topic about some kind of aggressive policy by Russia,” noted Vladimir Putin.

The Russian leader asked how things were at the western border of Belarus.

“The situation is complicated. It is bewildering overall. What worries me the most is the policy of the Polish leadership. Why would they need this confrontation? The same about the Lithuanians, Latvians... Firstly, dozens of corpses are dumped across the border. Migrants who try to get there are getting dumped. They have built a fence. They throw them over the fence to our side of the border. Now that the snow has melted, we have seen corpses lying right at the border,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that all this is creating tension at the border. In addition, the Western neighbors are closing the border for Belarus and Russia, which also affects third countries: “They closed the border for you and for us. It made it very hard to work even for the Chinese, Kazakhs, Poles and others. There are huge queues at checkpoints. They are doing this on purpose. We did not close our border. You know that we have a visa waiver for the neighboring countries. They do not allow their people to come here as they are afraid that we can recruit them.”

The President noted that no one apprehends or recruits people at the border. “If we need to recruit someone, we will do it another way,” he said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also drew attention to the military buildup on the other side of the border: “They are conducting exercises. They plan to carry them out in May, too. We are standing head-on at the border. Americans were deployed there, Germans. What is surprising is that they have not learned the lesson. Sending battalions to Lithuania and Poland. Of course, we had to station our units face-to-face across the border. I don’t know why they [western neighbors] need this. We are not going to war with anyone.”

In general, he called the situation in the economy amid sanctions pressure tolerable: “We have overcome the sanctions pressure in the economic sector. So has Russia. We have this huge Belarusian-Russian market, as well as friendly countries to work with. We have enough for both of us. We will surely withstand. We have the market, resources. We know what needs to be done.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko added that most of the loans allocated by Russia for joint projects have already been successfully utilized. “The joint projects financed with the loan of RUB 100 billion are gathering pace. We are building factories and so on. We were worried about the production of chips and microchips, and now we are starting to develop our own. I think we can easily get out of this situation. Therefore, as I once said, we need a little time and we will solve all the problems together with Russia,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“I would like the Ukrainians to be with us as well. I feel that soon the time will come when Ukraine realizes where its happiness is,” the Belarusian leader said.

“Let them decide for themselves,” Vladimir Putin responded.

Aleksandr Lukashenko thanked Vladimir Putin for providing Russian sea port capacities for Belarusian cargoes.

"I appreciate your support on the ports. We are working. We are looking into other ports. The Russian ports are helping us to ship products. In a word, there is no such thing as goods lying on the shore and us being unable to ship them," the Belarusian head of state said. "We work in St. Petersburg, Murmansk, and the Far East."

“In the north, too,” Vladimir Putin noted. 

Aleksandr Lukashenko confirmed that the prospects for the Northern Sea Route are good: "We have already shipped goods along the Northern Sea Route. Several thousand tonnes have already been delivered. It’s very convenient for our manufacturers. Therefore, your support has been very important for us."

During the meeting, the head of state thanked Vladimir Putin for his support in organizing the flight of Belarus’ first cosmonaut to the ISS.

"It is clear that if it had not been for your decision, flight would have not happened. We agreed that it would be a female space participant. We selected six out of more than 2,000 applicants, then two: the prime and her backup. Today we honored her with the Hero of Belarus title. Just like in Russia cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky is Hero of Russia, she is Hero of Belarus," the President said. 

According to him, Roscosmos has reaffirmed its readiness to work with Belarus on the development of a full-fledged space program. "We want to send a new satellite with a resolution of 25 centimeters some time in the future, maybe in two years. It's going to a big deal for us. We are working on it, there is no doubt that we will do it. We will work together in terms of cosmonauts training program. We are ready to join your cosmonauts program. There is no need for a separate Belarusian program," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

"We will work together," Vladimir Putin promised.

"You are much ahead. We have applicants, including female ones, who are ready to fly. Roscosmos is fine with it. If you support us, then we will send the second female applicant who was a backup. She is ready. We spent a lot of money on her training. If there is a desire and your will, then we will continue her training. She is ready," Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.