Meeting with Governor Russia’s Samara Oblast Dmitry Azarov

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  • 12:44

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko met with Governor Russia’s Samara Oblast Dmitry Azarov on 27 June.

“Your nation is not just close to us. You are our kin. You have come to your Belarus. It will be this way forever. The events of recent years and days once again show that we need to stand united, we have nothing to quarrel over. As soon as we start arguing, we will be divided,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

“You know what we can do. You are well familiar with Belarus, you have a very extensive program of the visit. Yet first of all I suggest identifying priority areas for our joint work in the near term. We are pressed for time and we should make up our mind very quickly,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

All agreements and contracts with Russian partners should be executed without delay, Aleksandr Lukashenko said addressing the Belarusian officials. “This is very important for our economy," he stressed.

The head of state recalled that on the eve of official talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he had a meeting with St Petersburg Governor Alexander Beglov: "I arrived in St Petersburg the day before a meeting with Putin. I met with the St Petersburg governor and inquired whether he had any complaints regarding the work with Belarus. The city ordered about 1,000 buses. I inquired how many were delivered, what was not, what problems there were."

"Make sure no project is disrupted. This is not charity," Aleksandr Lukashenko said addressing the Belarusian government.

He noted that a thousand buses is a very large order for MAZ: "We will be working very hard to fulfill this contract this year. There are other contracts as well."

According to the President, at the meeting with Alexander Beglov they touched upon a recent incident with a bus fire in St Petersburg: "He assured me there was nothing to worry about."

"Well, you know how journalists love to exaggerate. I was really worried that something might have really exploded there. Moreover, we began to produce buses on NGV fuel for St Petersburg. They’ve proved themselves very well. St Petersburg residents are very satisfied with our electric buses. Even people from our delegation noted that wherever they went, they saw Belarus-made buses. The second city in Russia and the most beautiful city in the world uses our buses and our utility vehicles. They have ordered more than a thousand of utility tractors."

"We are pleased that our products and services are fully in demand in the Russian market. Today, the question is no longer how to sell, as it was before. Today, the question is how to meet the demand primarily of our Russia, a huge country, for the goods that we produce. Our government must not turn any request or contract down, in any of the sectors. In recent days, we have thoroughly discussed this issue with the Russian President as we looked into the import substitution process. That's the number one question. We agreed that we will keep this process under tight control," the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that both Belarus and Russia are sometimes prone to red tape and bureaucracy: "Sometimes we map out all the steps, outline things to be solved, but once we get down to it, all kinds of ‘miracles’ begin to surface. We know about this and, I stress again, the Russia President and I thoroughly analyzed these things and even gave orders to the people concerned."

The head of state explained what the issue is about. For example, Belarus, within the framework of the joint import substitution program, has suggested 15 projects for implementation. "But what happened then? Some in Russia said that they need only 10 projects. Five projects are uninteresting [to Russia] and Belarus can export these goods to third markets. But kudos to Putin. He said that Russia is interested in everything, because for Belarus to sell its goods in third countries, it must produce them first, and for that it uses components from the Russian Federation, about 50% of them. “So how can these projects be uninteresting?!” the President said. “So there is a decision, and you should take it into account without any reservations, that the projects on import substitution sponsored by Russia ($1.5 billion earmarked to Belarus) must be implemented without any delay."

"Otherwise, we might create the situation that will lead to internal discontent. This is what ruined the Soviet Union. Remember, when the deficit of laundry detergents and bread created people's discontent. Then worthless politicians made their contribution and the huge empire collapsed. Now we are reaping the fruits. Therefore, these mistakes should not be made in any case," Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

“Without going into statistics, I want to say: there are all opportunities to reach $1 billion in mutual trade. We just need to fulfill what we previously agreed on at various levels. Today life itself pushes us to this and shows us the right way, maybe the only possible way. We have to rely on ourselves,” the Belarusian leader said.

According to Belarus’ data, in 2021 the trade with Samara Oblast totaled almost $700 million, up some 4% year-on-year. The figures dropped 59% this year due to the reduced imports of certain goods from Russia. At the same time Belarusian exports is showing a good increase year-on-year (more than 20%). At present domestic enterprises are not only fulfilling their obligations, but also significantly exceeding supplies of spare parts and components, elevator equipment, furniture, food, medicines, and other goods.

The President said that Belarus was ready to significantly increase the supplies of its latest automotive, agricultural, road construction, municipal and logging equipment to Russia.

The head of state drew attention to the logging equipment, the production of which has been recently mastered in Belarus, but the country has not yet launched batch production. These products are in demand in Russia, too. Aleksandr Lukashenko stated: “I explained all of that to the President [of Russia]. We will not do without it after all, particularly Russia. As I said, it is our alternative oil [timber]. We need at least $200-250 million in order to start all of it as import substitution now. He said: it is an interesting project, we should study it and definitely promote. The governments have to get this project going now. Samara Oblast may play part in it, too.”

“I am sure that we can agree on the terms of supply, service, and financial support. Recent months have proved it,” the President said.

“Although prices have gone up this year for reasons beyond our control, Belarus’ imports from your region have almost remained at the same level. We started buying more sunflower oil, copper wire, and bearings. It is by no means a complete list of the products we can purchase from you. We hope that your visit to Belarus will help balance the trade. Everyone will benefit from it,” the head of state said.

The search for new opportunities to expand industrial cooperation is of utmost importance. “We need full interest from both the parties. Jobs need to be created both in Belarus and Samara Oblast,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Another area of cooperation is technology transfer and export of services. For example, Belarusian specialists are interested in the research of Samara defense and industrial experts. In its turn, Belarus is always ready to share its accumulated experience in development of the agricultural sector, can expand the range of food supplies, participate in design and construction of social and industrial facilities. There is readiness to share scientific achievements and technologies, including achievements in road construction.

“If you want our participation in Samara Oblast projects, we would be grateful for it and we will demonstrate the most responsible attitude. Of course, with all the importance of developing economy and trade, we should not forget about humanitarian affairs. We need to cooperate in this regard as well, including in education, culture and information. Samara needs to know how Belarusians live. We also need to know how Samara Oblast is developing. Mass media will play an important role here,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko suggested considering all areas of cooperation during the governor's visit to Belarus: “You should tell us what we can and should do for Samara Oblast. We are at your service. If it is necessary and we can give our hand somewhere, we are ready to do it.”