President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, friends, let me wish you a warm welcome, this time to Sochi.
As you know, we have established with many of our partners the excellent cooperation mechanism of contacts at interregional level, and we try to support these efforts. Mr Lukashenko proposed that we support this kind of work between Russian and Belarusian regions too and get the relevant regional bodies involved. I think this was a good decision and we should therefore thank this meeting’s initiators and organisers.
We will use this opportunity to discuss our bilateral affairs too, of course. I think that our bilateral relations are developing very well. There are certainly some issues that require our particular attention and thorough examination, but on the whole, we are achieving the objectives we have set for our cooperation, and this is very good to see.
We are aware of the current economic problems in the world and in our own countries, of course. We understand what is happening and know what needs to be done. This is not always such an easy task, of course, but we will continue pressing forward steadily and I have no doubt that we will overcome all the difficulties before us.
We are very pleased to see you. Once again, I wish you welcome.
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: Thank you, Mr President.
To be honest, this is far from the first time that we are meeting to discuss the problems that arise and the positive aspects of our relations. We do indeed understand the events taking place around us. We have enough problems of our own too, and this is why we meet at regional events such as this.
Let me say that whenever regional governors visit Belarus, I always meet with them personally and ask about what we can do together. In general, there is always plenty for which I can thank the Russian regions.
In earlier days, it was the Russian regions that saved the relations between our two countries. Were it not for our cooperation with the Russian regions, it would have been very difficult for us to maintain the kind of ties we had when we were all part of the Soviet Union. We went through difficult times after the Soviet Union’s collapse, and so I personally and Belarus as a country have particular respect for relations between Belarus and the Russian regions. Our trade with some of the Russian regions is higher than our trade with individual countries. Russia as a whole accounts for around half of Belarus’ foreign trade. This makes our relations particularly valuable and important.
I want to thank you and your colleagues for this event’s excellent organisation. It has received wide coverage in the media. I saw the opening today and saw the big role that the heads of our parliaments’ upper houses played. Watching this event, I thought to myself how wonderful it is for our parliaments, for the upper houses, that they have found an important, concrete subject to tackle and are working on it with such enthusiasm.
I therefore want to thank you, your colleagues, and the governors for this well-organised event. I think it will become a regular event.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
I cannot help but recall that soon, on October 11, Belarus will hold a presidential election. This is always an important and not so easy moment in any country’s life. I know that the OSCE monitoring group has already started its work.
Alexander Lukashenko: So has the group from the CIS.
Vladimir Putin: There are Russian monitors present in both groups. I am sure the election will be organised well and will measure up in full to our countries’ and international standards. Let me wish you success.
Alexander Lukashenko: Thank you.