Talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin

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Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin held a meeting in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi on 23 May.

The formal part of the meeting lasted for about 5 hours. The heads of state kept talking in an informal setting after that.

Vladimir Putin reminded that the heads of state had decided to arrange a full-scale bilateral meeting on the sidelines of a recent Collective Security Treaty Organization summit in Moscow. “Indeed, the circumstances require a serious and deep conversation. I mean also everything relating to security in the region, the security of our countries, and the things relating to economy,” he said.

Vladimir Putin pointed out that the Russian economy is handling the sanctions rather well despite all the complications. “All the macroeconomic parameters indicate it,” Vladimir Putin noted. “During the conversation I will show you what is going on. Certainly, everything is not simple. Everything that is going on requires the economic bloc of the government to pay close attention and exercise extra effort. On the whole, these efforts produce a positive effect. It is reflected by the level of trade turnover between our countries among other things.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that the economy of Russia and the Union State was showing an unexpectedly strong growth amid sanctions pressure.

“It is very important (you once noted this) that the economy of Russia and in general of our union is not just strengthening. It is showing an unexpectedly strong growth. Take inflation rate, unemployment figures. Inflation has turned out to be lower. The jobless rate is on decline. This is good. The Russian ruble is strengthening at a fast pace. Therefore, unexpected things are happening. Well, these things are unexpected for them. We expected them to happen. This is a time of opportunities. They (the West), without realizing it, have pushed us to actively develop our economy,” the Belarusian President said.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the governments of Belarus and Russia, following the instructions of the heads of state, determined the main areas in import substitution and even made preliminary calculations of how much it would cost. “It is little money. I will not say this sum publicly now, because it is still approximate. We will reach the main results in import substitution, first of all where we do have enough components and other products,” the Belarusian leader is confident. “As for security, we have already been doing a good job in the security sector, producing what our joint army needs.”

“We can only thank them for giving us an impetus to our own development. We have a huge market, we have resources, technologies. They have obviously underestimated what is happening there. They lived reading only their mass media and got the inflation rate they have now. Although they say that Putin is to blame for that. They blame Putin for everything,” the Belarusian head of state said.

The Russian President stressed that the trade between Belarus and Russia exceeded $38 billion last year. This is a very good indicator, he said.

According to Vladimir Putin, the transition to the national currency in settlements with partner states produced an appreciable result. At the same time, there is nothing new for Belarus and Russia in this regard, because the countries have been trading this way for a long time; now the amount of settlements in Russian rubles is increasing.

“You repeatedly suggested doing it. The situation eventually prompted us to do it. This is not to the detriment of our partners. While fulfilling our commitments, we are switching to the national currency, the ruble, across a number of commodity groups and this helps strengthen the ruble,” the President of Russia stressed.

“Of course, one of the key issues is... Everyone probably expects me to say energy - this is important, but cooperation in the manufacturing industry is above all. You have also repeatedly suggested taking additional steps in this direction,” Vladimir Putin said.

The Russian head of state also named cooperation in the energy sector and agriculture as topics that are planned for discussion. “These matters will be discussed in greatest detail,” he added.

“We have plenty of avenues of joint work. We have something to talk about. Let alone future processes relating to the construction of the Union State of Belarus and Russia. As we’ve agreed, we will proceed with it calmly and without any rush. We will verify every step in order for such steps to make us stronger from within, from without, and make our political systems stronger. So that every step would enable conditions for their development,” Vladimir Putin said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that as far as security is concerned, they have something to talk about, particularly considering the concentration of NATO forces at western borders.

“There are some interesting things unexpectedly in Ukraine. You know it perfectly well. We and you should be worried about the steps they (politicians) are taking in order to dismember Ukraine. We are concerned by the fact they are ready – Poles, NATO countries – to come out, help grab Western Ukraine the way it was prior to 1939. We are concerned by it not only from the point of view of today’s security. Their strategy applies to Western Belarus, too. This is why we are on alert. As I’ve said, Ukrainians will have to ask us to prevent the separation of this western part and other parts from Ukraine. It is my stance but you know it precisely. We have plenty of problems here, too but those are not ours anymore. Those are their problems that we will have to resolve. The incomprehensible behavior of Poland President Andrzej Duda in Kiev yesterday. By the way, he decides virtually nothing in Poland. He arranges these fakes,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko expressed confidence that Belarus and Russia would successfully solve all the emerging security problems.

“You are right about the security issues, I support you here. We have a lot of problems. But we will be solving them. We are afraid of nothing. As they said in the old days, our cause is just and sooner or later we will win anyway,” the Belarusian leader stressed.