Meeting with Governor of Russia's Arkhangelsk Oblast Alexander Tsybulsky

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Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko met with Governor of Russia's Arkhangelsk Oblast Alexander Tsybulsky on 22 April.

Alexander Tsybulsky has come to Belarus on his first working visit as head of Arkhangelsk Oblast by the first direct flight launched between the two parties. The head of state emphasized the significance of the event.

“It is a good start for both businessmen and travelers, especially from remote corners of Russia. This is a good opportunity to get familiar with the country and recuperate in its health resorts. A lot of Russians visit us, and we compete for the first or second place among foreign destinations for Russian travelers. We have something to offer each other in the tourism sector,” the president said.

Arkhangelsk Oblast is a long-standing and reliable partner of Belarus. However, the parties have not done enough yet to increase mutual trade, the head of state noted. “I believe we have everything ahead of us. Mutual trade has been gradually rising since 2020,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Five years ago the parties talked about reaching the then record-high $46 million in the exchange of goods ($45.7 million at the end of 2019). In 2023, a new record was set and the bilateral trade made up $85 million.

The ongoing year is showing positive trends. Trade increased 2.7 times, up to $27.5 million. At the same time, import from Arkhangelsk Oblast grew at a faster pace - 4.6 times, to almost $22 million. Belarusian export is growing at a more modest pace - only by 7.7%. “We, of course, are determined to do more and I believe that very soon we will catch up with you,” the president said.

“What drew the criticism of Western countries not so long ago is now producing remarkable results. Against all the odds, Belarus has preserved all the key economic sectors that it specializes in,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

Belarus is developing its production using its own resources, and is modernizing its agricultural sector. But the main thing, the president emphasized, is that priority sectors have the necessary personnel and scientific potential.

The Belarusian side has thoroughly analyzed the joint opportunities. Mechanical engineering and the supply of Belarusian mechanical engineering goods remain the backbone of bilateral cooperation. 

For example, BelAZ dump trucks have proven their worth, including in the conditions of the Far North. Today, negotiations are underway to ship a batch of dump trucks for the First Mining Company.

The next item on the agenda is passenger transport. "We are grateful to you for choosing MAZ buses for a large-scale transport fleet upgrade program in the capital of your region. We supplied 150 vehicles at the end of 2022 - the beginning of 2023. Warranty and post-warranty service is a priority for Belarusian manufacturers. Please rest assured that all the shortcomings that may be identified during the operation will be fixed immediately," the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that Belarusian enterprises are ready to participate in the organization of maintenance on the ground: "If necessary, we will maintain our vehicles ourselves. We can send engineers and recruit people locally. We will train them, and they will, under the guidance of our engineers, maintain the equipment that we will supply to you." 

The supply of logging machines is also relevant for Arkhangelsk Oblast  since the region is one of the major woodlands in Russia. 

"You use Amkodor goods too. However some still choose vehicles from unfriendly countries. Spare parts are brought using gray schemes at an exorbitant price (sometimes five times more expensive); out-of-service goods are taken apart. It's not effective. We are implementing a unique project in Petrozavodsk: Amkodor is setting up its first facility to make forestry machines in Russia. The head office in Minsk and Amkodor-Onego in Karelia are now honing the quality and tailoring the goods to the needs of the Russian buyers. I hope that Arkhangelsk loggers will get interested in the new Union State goods. I ask you to support this project, which is beneficial for us and for you. At the same time, I do not rule out the possibility of cooperating directly with you from Minsk and providing all the needs (and they are not small) of Arkhangelsk Oblast," the president said.

One of the promising areas of cooperation that was named by the president during the meeting was the modernization of industrial enterprises specializing primarily in timber processing, shipbuilding, and ship repairs. “Today, fortunately, Belarusian producers of modern machines and equipment have orders till the end of this year. But we have reserves,” the head of state remarked.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the construction of ice-strengthened vessels is also worth considering. The Russians need them in the face of a significant uptick in transportation along the Northern Sea Route. The country needs at least 90 vessels, although no more than 30 are being produced.

The president emphasized that Belarus is very interested in developing the Northern Sea Route, along which tens of millions of tonnes of cargo can be shipped. This route has become even more relevant after the introduction of sanctions by Western countries and the closure of their ports for domestic cargo. “We have tried to supply small quantities of our goods via this route to the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Far East. Using this route makes economic sense to us. Therefore, we are genuinely interested in working with Arkhangelsk Oblast,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko. A possible option is to ship directly to the ports of Arkhangelsk Oblast, bypassing the ports of St. Petersburg and Murmansk. “I think that we will make a decision on that in the near future,” the president added.

Belarus and Arkhangelsk Oblast could also cooperate in logistics and transport. “Belarus’ strategic task is to find new ways to ship its export cargo,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized.

The Arkhangelsk port infrastructure specializes in containers and general cargo. Thus, it is not fit to transship Belarus’ key export cargo - potash fertilizers, the volume of which will be about 15 million tonnes in the near future. But this port may be of interest to Belarusian producers of timber and metal products. “Yet, the competition in this matter is intense, including in the north-west. The cost of transportation is the primary consideration. Therefore, we are ready to work together,” the president said.

Arkhangelsk is traditionally one of the bases for shipping cargo along the Northern route. This region is a hub for transshipment of goods, in particular construction materials for large mining facilities in the Arctic zone. In addition, the Arkhangelsk transport hub will be expanded in the near future to be used more actively as part of the Northern Sea Route.

“Here we could also be useful to each other,” noted Aleksandr Lukashenko.

According to the president, Belarus and the Russian region should also consider cooperation in housing construction. Now Arkhangelsk Oblast is addressing an important social task: relocating people from dilapidated housing. Construction is going ahead of schedule by a year, although the amount of work is enormous. “I think that we could also consider the supply of construction materials and some form of assistance to builders,” the head of state believes.

According to the president, another promising area of cooperation is the development of peat deposits with the subsequent production of high-tech products, such as plant growth regulators, active feed additives, materials for agriculture, livestock, and oil production. Belarus produces all the necessary equipment for the extraction and deep processing of peat.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that this is an incomplete list of areas for partnership. “I suggest discussing not individual projects, but jumping right away on an action plan, as they say, a road map, and using a package approach in each area. In a year or two, we can take stock of the work done,” said the head of state.