Visit to Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Amur Oblast

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Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur Oblast on 12 April. The visit was timed to Cosmonautics Day.

Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin studied the progress in building the space launch facility and talked to pilot-cosmonauts and personnel of the cosmodrome. Vladimir Putin presented state awards to cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, Aleksandr Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka. Aleksandr Lukashenko congratulated the Russians on the awards.

Vladimir Putin said that Belarusian specialists will soon have the opportunity to participate in the development of the Vostochny Cosmodrome. Aleksandr Lukashenko, in turn, stressed that Belarus is ready to send its builders here on a short notice.

One of the employees asked the leaders when to expect builders from Belarus at the cosmodrome. “As soon as you need them!” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state added that his Russian counterpart spoke about the work under sanctions and expressed confidence in overcoming their negative impact successfully. The Belarusian leader said that during the visit to the cosmodrome it seemed to him that there were no sanctions at all. Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “You do everything with your own hands. Why do we bother about these sanctions? Won’t we be able to build houses? Yes, we will. We will do everything. We just need a little time. That's why the President invited me here so that I could see everything with my own eyes.

“To take a look at the volume, at the scale,” Vladimir Putin added.

In his words, Belarusian builders have a very good reputation, and it is not the only area for cooperation on space issues. Vladimir Putin stressed that Belarus has good enterprises from the Soviet times whose experience and know-how are now in demand in joint space projects with Russia. “Belarus has good Soviet-period plants. Aleksandr Grigoriyevich supported them, helped them survive. We will use their know-how and experience. These are absolutely concrete things,” the Russian President said.

During the visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin had a one-on-one meeting.

Aleksandr Lukashenko thanked his Russian counterpart for inviting Belarusian construction companies to participate in the construction of facilities at the cosmodrome, to get involved in this huge construction project: “Thank you for inviting us to participate in this construction. We will surely accept your proposal and offer interesting options to you.” In his words, this proposal testifies to a very high level of trust.

Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that Belarus has had a powerful civil engineering industry since the Soviet Union times. It was a beacon for the entire huge country. “We’ve preserved it. We have large private companies, very powerful state-run construction trusts, which not only offer turn-key construction from zero but have their own facilities to make construction materials,” he said. “It turns out we can be useful including as part of such giant construction projects like the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome.”

The President remarked that one feels no influence of Western sanctions when one visits such facilities like the Vostochny Cosmodrome. “One walks around and feels nothing. Everything is of domestic make. People are busy working. Thousands of people are employed at the site,” he said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that Russians can always count on Belarus’ aid. “You can count on Belarusians,” he stressed. “Know it that in any situation (we are convinced of it but Russians should be convinced of it, too) we will always be nearby regardless of how the situation may develop. And no one should think that Russia is so huge… Mighty indeed. It takes half a day to fly from one side to another. Belarus is smaller. But great things come in small packages. We have something to contribute to huge Russia. We will endure. We need a bit of time.”

“The Far East is distant, but ours. We have one Fatherland, even though we live in two states. We, unlike some republics, have preserved this unity, and we are determined to strengthen it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He noted: answering the questions of the cosmodrome workers, the President of Russia shared his impressions of the day when the first human spaceflight took place. “We rejoiced back then, we saw how happy our parents and the entire nation were, and it felt good,” the President of Belarus said talking about that day. “It was a key element in raising patriots. It was a completely different life, not easier than now, but there was some kind of inspiration, unity,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko supported Vladimir Putin’s proposal to develop technological tourism at such facilities as the Vostochny Cosmodrome: “There is something to see here, be impressed with and then grow up as a patriot, believe in your country.”

According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Belarus and Russia will work together to build the infrastructure of the cosmodrome, which guarantees independent access to space for the Union State. In the near future Belarusians will have an opportunity to participate in the development of the town of Tsiolkovsky and the cosmodrome itself.

“It is the highest level of trust. After all, we have come to a closed facility, where you practically never take anyone. The visit of the President of another country, even a friendly one here is the highest level of trust on your part, on the part of Russia. The fact that you offer us to get involved in this giant construction project is the highest level of trust,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

After the talks the two leaders talked to mass media representatives.

“This is an amazing, extraordinary land! I have to admit that I wanted to visit it long time ago. It was a kind of romance for me. The fact that on Cosmonautics Day we saw the implementation of a project such as the Vostochny Cosmodrome has strengthened the general impressions of our delegation,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The Belarusian leader considers the Vostochny Cosmodrome to be a world-class project: “This project is unmatched in the world.”

“Space is our common topic. During the Soviet era Belarusians made a significant contribution to the development of cosmonautics. We have managed not only to restore the former competences but to develop many new ones with the help of Russia,” the head of state said. As a result Belarus has entered the club of the space powers, he added. “In fact, we have created a new economic sector, the space industry, and we are proud of these successes. We see the prospects for further progress. This includes the development of the Earth remote sensing system (a decision has been made on this program today), satellite communications and a lot of other interesting areas of cooperation. Probably it is time to let new Belarusian cosmonauts get into space,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko thanked Vladimir Putin for supporting the initiative to provide Russia’s assistance in training and sending a Belarusian cosmonaut into orbit and financing these activities.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that he and Vladimir Putin discussed in detail the current issues on bilateral agenda, including political, diplomatic, economic and, of course, military and defense matters.

“We have never had such dangerous and difficult moments in our relations with the West,” said the head of state.

“Discussing the problem that everyone is talking about today, I emphasized this point during the talks with the Russian President. This statement of mine was not made out of nowhere. If only Russia had delayed its military operation just a little bit, they would have launched, according to them, a crushing blow on Russia's territory - on neighboring regions. We are now clearly convinced that this was possible. So if someone doubts the rightness of the decision, imagine what we could have seen just half a month or a month later,” said the Belarusian leader.

“We once decided that the Cold War was over, that that page was turned over, and we will live in a new civilized and fair world based on mutual understanding and the triumph of international law. We thought so. But the West didn’t. They didn’t destroy us then. They’ve decided to try now,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He pointed out that the most dangerous and intense situation Belarus and Russia are in now had not emerged on its own. “Both Washington and Brussels had been working for years towards exactly this outcome. Today it is absolutely obvious that sadly, a clash was unavoidable,” the President stressed. “It was simply a matter of time and place.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that during the negotiations with the Russian President they had also discussed the situation in the Ukrainian city of Bucha, which triggered more sanctions from the West. “Today we’ve discussed this special operation of theirs in detail – a psychological operation staged by Englishmen. If some of you need addresses, passwords, places of secret meetings, plate numbers and brands of the vehicles those people used to come to Bucha and how they did it – Russia’s FSB can share these materials. If you don’t, we can help in this regard. Together with our Russian friends we have gotten to the bottom of this nasty and disgusting position of the West from the first hour to the last one,” the Belarusian leader said.

“They say the world will never be the same. It is true. To those, who would very much like to return to the past, as they say, into a comfortable environment, we can say right now: you have to forget about it. The modern world is a fierce struggle, a clash of civilizations. By the way, the West has never entertained illusions about it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He reminded that a political figure also tried to enforce his own new order in Europe in the 1930-1940s. “We know well how it ended. This is why, I think, Washington should also return to a not so distant past. Our fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers endured back then and prevailed in the end. We will win, too, just the way it happened many times over the course of our common history of thousands of years,” the Belarusian leader stated.

The presidents of Belarus and Russia answered reporters’ questions about the development of cooperation between the two countries, including in the space industry, counteraction of sanctions, the situation in the world and the events in Ukraine.

The head of state stressed that a unipolar world cannot exist on one point of support just like any other system. “Any system will be steadier if it relies on more than one point of support. The more points of support there are, the steadier the system is. Would it be bad if the USA, the European Union as the second point of support, Russia, China, and possibly India – if our entire world system and our planet relied on these four points of support? Would it be less steady in comparison with the system relying on this destructive one pillar in the shape of the United States of America?” the President wondered.

Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that the governments of Belarus and Russia had already prepared sizeable packages of measures to overcome the sanctions-fueled pressure, support the economies, advance manufacturing cooperation and substitute imports, rework logistic chains, and transition to a new mechanism of cooperation in foreign trade.

“As we respond to current problems, today we already have to look into tomorrow and lay down a brand new economic strategy of development of construction of the Union State of Belarus and Russia in the long term,” The President noted.

“We can sell everything we produce here. It means that we are okay with using the Russian ruble in payments. We have finally started using the Russian currency to buy gas and oil, other products. We are absolutely okay with that,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

The head of state agreed that sanctions cause unnecessary problems. According to him, Belarus and Russia will cope with them and gradually resolve all the issues, but the time that could have been spent to move forward more quickly is spent on finding workarounds.

“The world today is such that it is not possible to crush anyone. Especially not such a huge country as Russia, which is absolutely self-sufficient. They [West] however decided on such behavior. We tell them: “Goodbye then. We will make our own lives. And we can do everything,” the President stressed.

Aleksandr Lukashenko told reporters that Russia is ready to support Belarusian oil refineries.

“We’ve talked about natural gas and oil. Moreover, the President [of Russia] told me: ‘We will support your oil refineries just the way we provide support in the Russian Federation’,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President remarked that the governments are working on it.

According to the head of state, the negotiations also touched upon the formation of the common market, manufacturing cooperation in agriculture and production sector, and military cooperation.

Close attention was paid to matters of defense during the talks. Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that Belarus and Russia had long before created a regional military force of the Union State of Belarus and Russia.

“We see how Americans push not only Ukraine but our western neighbor – Poland – and the Baltic states towards a confrontation with Belarus,” he noted.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stated that Russia will help Belarus protect western borders if necessary.

After the talks Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin took a helicopter to return together to the airport of the city of Blagoveshchensk. The Belarusian head of state left for Vladivostok after that.