Meeting with Governor of Russia's Primorsky Krai Oleg Kozhemyako in Vladivostok. Visit to Russky Island

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Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko met with Governor of Russia's Primorsky Krai Oleg Kozhemyako in Vladivostok on 13 April.

The President said that he was honored to visit the edge of “our common homeland”. “We always say: from Brest to Vladivostok. Here is our common homeland of two independent states, and they demonstrate the possibility of building this unity,” said the Belarusian leader.

Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that some said that Belarus would be incorporated into Russia. “I say: Putin and I are smart enough not to act in the old way. We will build such a unity of the two independent states that they will learn from us. They will learn from us how to overcome sanctions, and so on,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko is confident that the period of sanctions is a time of opportunity. “Maybe I don't fully understand this period. Maybe our opinions do not coincide (we have different economies, after all). But I am glad that these sanctions were imposed on us. We finally have begun to cooperate with Russia the way we should have been cooperating a long time ago.”

In his words, any restrictions on cooperation between the two countries are an anachronism and there should not be such things in bilateral relations. “I understand that Russia is huge. Everybody wants to work here. Not everyone have nasty intentions. I understand that both the President and the government had a hard time ensuring some balance. Turkey is asking the market to sell tomatoes. Others are asking for something else. China is nearby, which is important for you. Japan, Korea, others,” the Belarusian President said.

“Well, they have made their choice [those who imposed sanctions and suspended cooperation with partners in Russia and Belarus]. Believe me, this is to our and your benefit. Why is it good for us? The Russian ruble does not bother us. I have reiterated many times that we should switch to Russian rubles in payments. We don't need dollars and euros. It was impossible to break through this wall. Today we pay for energy and other things in Russian rubles. We are happy with that,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

He added however that mutual payments have become a little complicated. “We will solve this problem. We have already started solving it. No one will be able to bring us to our knees. This is a great territory that has everything,” said the Belarusian leader. “There are all the resources, raw materials, high technology. We just need to readjust a little and move away from this crazy market. Not everything depends on the market. People also need to participate in the regulation of certain processes.”

“I am glad that Belarus is going to develop economic cooperation with Primorsky Krai. We plan to work seriously here,” stressed the Belarusian leader.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that during the Soviet Union Belarus was a high-tech region, an “assembly shop” with production facilities focused on the whole territory. “Too many production facilities were set up in Belarus then. If Belarus had been independent, we would have never set up so many,” he said.

Today a number of such Belarusian companies, for example BelAZ, hold significant shares in global production.

The President also praised the high level of academic science in Belarus, which has both fundamental and practice-oriented research and development.

“We have preserved a huge school from the Soviet Union. It covers everything from earth to space. I have supported these schools little by little. They turned out to be in demand,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

In this regard, there is an opportunity to develop the relevant areas in cooperation with the regions of Russia, including Primorski Krai. “Belarus is not big, but we can transfer these competences to this land,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.

The President remarked that he was really glad to have the opportunity to visit Russky Island during the visit to Vladivostok. The decision to develop the island was once taken by the Russian leader personally.

“It is, first of all, Vladimir Vladimirovich's merit that I got the honor to visit the edge of our common homeland at the new turn in the development of our relations,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko. “The Russian President has repeatedly invited me to visit Russky Island in Vladivostok. I promised him to do it. After all, everything there depended on him. I know how the decision was made. It was a hard one. It depended on him whether the island would be developed and whether it would become iconic. Yesterday we discussed the matter.”

The head of state briefly recounted the story of how the fateful decision regarding the island was made: “At first the decision was taken not to do anything. The project required big funds. Later, however, Vladimir Putin changed his decision. He said: “We must build it. Otherwise we will not be able to build it later.” He told me this story in detail yesterday [during the meeting in Amur Oblast on 12 April].”

“I understand that there are iconic facilities of Putin's era in Russia. I call them monuments erected on the order of the head of state. We all have something that we have created during our work. He is proud of Russky Island. He listed several more facilities to me. Yesterday he showed me another unique project in Amur Oblast [the Vostochny Cosmodrome and its infrastructure] that will make not only Russia proud in the future. It is world-class project. The technology is unmatched in the world,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

After the talks with the governor of Primorsky Krai the President of Belarus visited Russky Island where a multifunctional cultural and educational center is being built. Belarusian specialists are involved in the project. Aleksandr Lukashenko was told that 44 people from Belarus are now working at the site. Another 50 people will be added to the number by late April and another 50 by mid-May, Belarusian Architecture and Construction Minister Ruslan Parkhamovich said. In his words, the Belarusian specialists are primarily employed to build residential premises, halls of residence.

The Russian company Stroytransgaz is responsible for building the center on the Russian side. A Stroytransgaz representative said that design documents for building a theater and a draft of the relevant contract had been forwarded to Belarus. The documents are being reviewed.

While referring to the participation of Belarusian specialists in construction, Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded about his key demand: “If you cannot do it, don’t start. If you start it, you have to complete it.”

On the island, Aleksandr Lukashenko also visited the main building of Far Eastern Federal University where he was told about advanced technological solutions developed by students and environmental projects. There were also space projects that the leaders of Belarus and Russia discussed at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur Oblast the day before. Solutions in medicine and land use aroused a keen interest, too.

Another facility visited by Aleksandr Lukashenko on Russky Island was the Primorsky Aquarium education and research facility. The head of state was shown a small performance.

After that Aleksandr Lukashenko and Oleg Kozhemyako answered reporters’ questions. The head of state shared his impressions of the visit to Russia’s Far East, the prospects for the development of relations between Belarus and Primorsky Krai.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that Belarus and Russia have demonstrated what integration from Brest to Vladivostok is to the entire world.

“We’ve shown that and we will show even bigger accomplishments,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

According to the President, his visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome and negotiations with President of Russia Vladimir Putin over there signify a lot. “Just you wait. President Putin and I will show them. As I said yesterday: ‘Listen, Vladimirovich, you and I will show them what’s what’,” the Belarusian leader added.

Speaking about the cooperation with the region, Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that Belarus is ready to establish joint enterprises in Russia's Primorye Territory.

“Trade is simple: buy and sell. We have agreed that we should move forward to setting up joint assembly plants here,” the Belarusian leader said.

In a conversation with mass media representatives Aleksandr Lukashenko said that traveling to various places in Russia’s Far East might be interesting.

“I dreamed of visiting Sakhalin Island when Oleg Nikolayevich [Kozhemyako, who previously was a governor of Amur Oblast and Sakhalin Oblast] ran this territory. We may visit it one day and you will recall the old days,” Aleksandr Lukashenko told Oleg Kozhemyako.

The Belarusian leader also remarked he would be interested in visiting Kamchatka Peninsula, the city of Magadan, Chukotka, and Lake Baikal. “It is of great interest for me. I can imagine the rest more or less well,” he explained.

The head of state was also asked whether he intended to attend the Eastern Economic Forum, which is due in Vladivostok in September 2022, and the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2022. “I make plans but man proposes, god disposes,” the President noted with a bit of joke.

“If everything is normal, then sure. And then I’d love to go to Sakhalin Island and Kamchatka Peninsula,” Aleksandr Lukashenko continued. He also noted he had wanted to visit Altai Territory for a long time.

The Belarusian leader stressed that over the years of his presidency he had travelled the entire world and can state that Russia is a unique place. “If you want to go skiing, there is no better resort than Sochi,” Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned as an example. He drew attention to ecology, to the purest kind of air in places like Primorye Territory. “If you want to see things, breathe in fresh air, do it here. Europe pales before it,” he said. “Europe has polluted its own territory and ours a bit.”

When answering one of the questions, the head of state said that the coronavirus response strategy chosen by Belarus is now becoming relevant in other countries.

The head of state noted that the impact of the coronavirus has yet to be assessed. At the same time, he emphasized that in its fight against COVID-19 Belarus proceeded from the prevailing circumstances and relied on available resources. Time has shown that Belarus chose the right strategy and this strategy is now in demand by other countries, the President said.

“We went our own way proceeding from the situation that we had,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“In the future, we will have to answer the question: the world is now being cut into pieces and divided, and what role has the pandemic played in this? Probably, the pandemic was also a factor here if we puzzle everything out,” the head of state said.

Oleg Kozhemyako said that Belarusians are kin people for Russians, and distance is not an obstacle to develop friendly relations. On the contrary, it spurs interaction. Many residents of the Far East, like the governor himself, have Belarusian roots.

“These are hardworking and decent people,” Oleg Kozhemyako said of Belarusians. “If you have agreed with the Belarusians on something, all the issues will be definitely resolved.” According to him, the position of the Belarusian head of state on strengthening ties with Russia adds confidence: “When you have a guarantor, you understand that you should not fail and our people do not fail. Projects are implemented mutually beneficially across all the areas we worked in.

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko added that Oleg Kozhemyako had a lot of personal merit in the development of successful cooperation between Belarus and the Far East regions of Russia. While he was still the governor of Amur Oblast, he came to Belarus, had an appointment with the head of state, and suggested cooperation in different areas. When he was in charge of Sakhalin Oblast, a large-scale project was implemented to build a dairy complex there using Belarusian materials and technologies. “I remember how they transported pedigree cattle by plane. We set it up and it is up and running,” the Belarusian leader said.

“It's all his merit that he focused his attention on Belarus then. We are responsive people, ready to work here and set up joint enterprises,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.