Session to discuss topical issues of cooperation with Russia

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The comprehensive nature of the bilateral relations is important not only for Belarus, but also for Russia, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said at a session to discuss topical issues of cooperation with Russia on 24 December.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that Russia is a key partner for Belarus. “I am not saying “a brotherly nation”, because as I have been informed, Russia does not perceive it this way, as new decision-makers there reject this notion. Okay, let us be partners,” the Belarusian leader said.

“We have always underscored the significance of this cooperation. The comprehensive nature of our relations means a lot not only for Belarus, but also for Russia. These relations have a systemic and regular basis,” the President noted.

Aleksandr Lukashenko added that decisions had been taken on all Belarus-Russia agreements within the framework of the UnionState and in the bilateral format proceeding from the perspective that Russia is not only a partner, but also a brotherly nation. “Many agreements have been signed at the Supreme State Council, the Union State Council of Ministers and in the bilateral format. Unfortunately, as I keep saying, not all of them are being fulfilled,” the head of state noted.

The President recalled that half a year ago the Supreme State Council passed priority objectives and tasks for the UnionState development for the forthcoming five years. “There is an action plan. We had been drafting it for a long time, we scrutinized every matter, reconciled and spelled out everything we were capable of and, first of all, what the Russian Federation was capable of. During the preparatory work back then many our proposals on closer integration were not upheld,” the President noted.

According to the head of state, a broad spectrum of matters was covered, including macroeconomics, budget, manufacturing, foreign policy, transport, migration, healthcare and culture. “Action plans were adopted on all of them. We have approached the establishment of the common fuel and energy market and are moving towards the formation of the common legal space in the UnionState,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

During the talks in Saint Petersburg in April 2017, the heads of state agreed to come to grips with a number of issues in the oil and gas sector. “In the middle of this year we were supposed to embark on negotiations on the gas prices (as we had agreed on with Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg) and oil-related issues amidst Russia’s tax maneuver. These issues were to be tackled by the end of the year. However, Russia did not agree with all our proposals, so the deadline was not met. The delegations of Belarus and Russia will have to answer a question during the talks tomorrow why the decision adopted by the two presidents was not fulfilled,” the Belarusian President said.

The head of state called the forthcoming talks in Moscow difficult. In the run-up to the talks, he suggested discussing the ways to approach integration-related matters with utmost respect for the sovereignty of the two states and in particular the choice of the two peoples – Russians and Belarusians.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the gas prices for the forthcoming year were agreed on. “Although they are two times higher than in Russia, we have managed to agree on prices for three years in a row, including for 2019,” he noted.

“As for the price for oil, the situation changed three years ago. Over this period Belarus lost nearly $4.5 billion because of the tax maneuver [in Russia’s oil industry]. We assume that we will lose another $10.5 billion in the years to come, by 2024 or so,” the Belarusian leader said.

“They promised me personally, and the government did not deny it, that they [Russia] would never do anything to deteriorate the economic situation in Belarus and that they would compensate for the losses inflicted by the tax maneuver. Those were promises. We understood it and were ready to negotiate. It seemed the two governments calculated everything and a decision was adopted,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state commented on the statement by First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Anton Siluanov who was in charge of the talks. Anton Siluanov said that Belarus would lose a lot and Russia was ready to make up for these losses from the budget. “And then everything came to a halt all of a sudden. I want an answer to the question: why did these talks stop at a time when everything was in place for making a decision even at the Union State Council of Ministers session in Brest?” the President asked.

Aleksandr Lukashenko added that there are multiple ways to address the issues to be discussed in the Kremlin; however Belarus should clearly formulate and defend its position.