In recent weeks, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been testing the limits of how much anti-Russian Minsk may appear to be, and still receive all benefits of being its best friend.
The Russian leadership has hinted that in exchange for setting common prices for energy, Belarus will have to become part of the Russian Federation, said Lukashenko’s press service.
“Remember: your first president you once elected will never be the last. Think how you’ll live after me. But while I’m alive, even when I’m not president, I will always fight to keep our land sovereign and independent,” Intex-Press quoted Lukashenko.
At the same time, the president promised to continue work on the economic integration of the two countries.
“There is nothing wrong with that … Purely economic issues of integration,” said the Belarusian leader, noting that there has been agreement not to discuss the creation of supranational authorities of Russia and Belarus.
The president also promised that Belarus will continue to buy oil from other countries, as it is always necessary to have an alternative to Russian raw materials.
“To avoid kneeling every year on December 31,” Lukashenko explained.
Regardless, First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Dmitry Krutoy said on February 9th that following the results of negotiations in Sochi, the parties were able to agree only on a market price for oil.
“We expect (this is a big breakthrough of our current agreements) that soon this oil problem will be completely resolved,” the official said.
The Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister said that the Minister of Energy of Russia promised to meet with the leadership of large Russian companies and identify working conditions in the Belarusian market for them.
“Speaking of an agreement on oil and the oil market, the Russian side agreed that Belarusian refineries would buy oil by agreement with Russian oil companies at prices that are set on the world market. By the way, Lukashenko, the Belarusian side, repeatedly demanded this during all negotiations. That Belarus does not need any special exclusive conditions. We want to buy oil at world prices, and no worse,” said the First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus.
At the same time, the President of Belarus believes that Russia should either pay a penalty for late commissioning of nuclear power plants, or soften the terms of payments for the loan provided by it.
If Russia doesn’t make concessions towards Belarus on the issue of a loan for the commissioning of the Belarusian NPP, Minsk may impose sanctions against Russia because of the failure to start the operation of a nuclear power plant.
“You know that the Russians were supposed to introduce the first block in 2018, in 2019 – the second. But the deadlines were broken, and there were huge penalties,” the president said.
According to Lukashenko, he discussed the problem with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting on February 7th in Sochi, and it was the Russian leader who suggested that he “find a mutually acceptable solution” so as not to bring the matter to fines, which the Russian budget is not ready to pay.
“I said: a good offer, I will have a counter. You have missed the deadlines, so let’s agree that the interest on the loan will be reduced to the level that you are building in Hungary, in Vietnam (somewhere around 3%). We will not impose sanctions, and this is just what we will have to do,” Lukashenko said.
He also noted that in addition to lowering the loan rate, he proposed to postpone the start of payments for repayment by three years. Putin had no rejections to the proposal, according to Lukashenko.
“They decided that in this regard we will agree: there is no other way. Either we introduce penalties for late payments (and that would be a lot of money), or they move back the loan. This is quite normal,” the Belarusian president outlined.
And finally, Lukashenko said that, Russia could supply gas at a lower price to any region that was strongly affected by the Chernobyl tragedy.
“People still cannot use both wood and other types of fuel due to this disaster,” Lukashenko explained.
In particular, the Belarusian leader said that Russia, as the successor of the USSR, should not refuse the promises of the Soviet government, and wondered why Belarus, which suffered most from the Chernobyl explosion, was not supported.
And finally, Belarus is considering changing its coat of arms, so that the star on it is less prominent, and the globe at the bottom is focused on Europe, rather than on Russia.
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