Meeting with Governor of Russia’s Murmansk Oblast Andrei Chibis

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Belarus and Murmansk Oblast of Russia may reach a new level of cooperation, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with Murmansk Oblast Governor Andrei Chibis on 8 September.

Welcoming the Russian delegation, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that so far the President of Belarus had been to Murmansk more often than the governors of Murmansk Oblast to Belarus. “However, you, fortunately, have discontinued this trend. You, the people from Murmansk Oblast, are always welcome in Belarus,” the head of state stressed.

The trade between Belarus and Murmansk Oblast exceeds $100 million per year. According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, this is a good result, but the parties can do much better.

In H1 2022, the trade grew by almost 23%, primarily on the back of supplies from Murmansk Oblast: imports increased by 35%, while Belarusian exports dropped by 20%. “We can rectify the imbalance, we have everything in place to do it,” the head of state stressed.

“Under the current conditions, it is strategically important for us to redirect part of Belarusian exports, primarily potash fertilizers, to your ports. And not only potash fertilizers. You know, we have been closely studying this issue. I have been informed on all aspects of this matter, and we have decided that we will cooperate with Murmansk Oblast despite the fact that we are already operating in the St. Petersburg area,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

According to the head of state, the cooperation in logistics between Belarus and Murmansk Oblast is also supported by the Russian President: “He asked me whether I want to operate in Murmansk Oblast too. And I replied ‘absolutely’. I said that it is not a good idea to put all eggs in one basket. He said that they are very interested in this and support it.”

The necessary agreements have already been reached, but there are still some pending issues. This pertains, among other things, to the cost of delivery of goods by rail.

“I know that this matter is a responsibility of a federal government, but nonetheless. If you get involved, we will resolve this issue faster. Fundamental decisions have been made. We will work on this. The northern direction will significantly boost our cooperation in logistics taking into account St. Petersburg. And I still believe that someday the northern route [Northern Sea Route] will be actively used to supply goods through the Arctic Ocean to the Asian part of our planet. It will be a game changer. If our cooperation proceeds well, we can send millions of tonnes more to keep this route busy,” the President noted.

Belarus and Murmansk Oblast are also developing cooperation in the supply of equipment. “Today we and you have practically no competitors in Russia: Western companies have left Russia. Even if they have not, they are not competitors to us in terms of price and quality,” the President said.

For example, Russian mining and processing companies are interested in the equipment of Belarusian Autoworks. The parties are discussing new contracts.

“We have a good deal of groundwork: we are to supply more than 30 vehicles before the end of the year, and 15 vehicles more in 2023. I think there will be more. We know about your interest in the mining equipment. You can be sure that we will give you all kinds of support, assistance in all areas of cooperation in this field,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

Belarus also expects to continue supplying passenger vehicles, including Belkommunmash electric transport, to Murmansk Oblast. Minsk Automobile Plant has produced a bus designed especially for the northern regions of Russia.

“An important area of work is municipal vehicles, road and special equipment. We produce a lot of such equipment. They will be important for Murmansk Oblast as import-substituting products,” added the head of state/

The President said that MAZ had mastered and would soon start producing ambulances, while Amkodor could produce a wide range of customized machines.

The head of state also considers food security an extremely important issue. “We are ready to lend a shoulder. Since Soviet times, the residents of Murmansk Oblast have been happy to buy our food, including from the fields: potatoes and other products,” the head of state said.

Belarus offers Murmansk Oblast to cooperate in industrial construction, the supply of building materials and elevator equipment. According to the head of state, Belarus is also interested in participating in the Clean Water regional programs by supplying modular water purification and water treatment plants.

“I am sure that your visit here is the opening of a new stage of cooperation between Belarus and Murmansk Oblast. Everything we will agree on (and we can agree on all issues, you know our capabilities), I assure you that we will certainly fulfill them all regardless of all kinds of sanctions,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.