The two presidents discussed the main issues on the bilateral agenda and also prospects for the development of the Eurasian integration processes. Members of their delegations participated in the meeting.
Later that day, the President and his Belarusian counterpart took a break from negotiations and went skiing at an alpine ski resort.
On February 15, the presidents of Russia and Belarus will meet with their ministers of education, culture and sport to discuss practical proposals for the further development of the cultural and humanitarian cooperation between the two countries.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, friends, we are delighted to see you, this time in Sochi.
As agreed, we will have an informal conversation. We will have the opportunity to get together and talk today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. I hope you will get the chance to relax a little, at least for a few hours. We have an extensive programme for today and the next two days.
To begin with, I would like to reiterate with satisfaction that our relations are getting stronger. Russia remains Belarus’ largest trade and economic partner and accounts for over 49 percent of the republic's trade.
Our financial relations are going from strength to strength as well. A fairly large amount of state loans – over 6 billion plus 58 billion rubles and six EAEU Fund tranches totalling $1.6 billion – was granted to Belarus over recent years.
In this regard, I would like to note that Belarus is financially responsible when it comes to fulfilling its obligations which makes it possible for us to operate major projects, including the construction of a nuclear power plant, which is nearing completion.
This allows us to expand purely commercial relations in various fields, including agricultural produce which accounts for over 34 percent of Belarus’ total exports to Russia.
I am aware that we occasionally go through rough patches and complications when it comes to our relations but, as it should be between friends, I hope these issues will be resolved the same way they were resolved before.
Of course, energy is one of the critical areas. The volumes of hydrocarbon supplies, both oil and gas, will remain at the level that we agreed upon.
I am aware that our colleagues – Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak and his Belarusian counterpart – meet regularly. Their most recent meeting was in late 2018. They are working to coordinate the positions that need coordination.
Of course, our cooperation in the sphere of international relations and the situation in the region is important. For us, Belarus is a critical strategic partner and an ally, and it is important for me to compare notes with the President of Belarus on these matters, including, by the way, integration within the post-Soviet space.
We are very pleased to see you. Welcome!
President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: Mr President, first, thank you for the invitation, as we sometimes get bogged down in our own problems and fail to see things from the proper perspective.
You were correct when you said that we can use an hour or two to take a breather. I took advantage of it this morning. Thank you for getting the ski runs in good condition. The people who joined me skiing are quite happy. So, we are already familiar with the Sochi trails.
For me, this is home. As I was riding along the new road late last night, I thought back to that difficult, terrible Soviet-made road that we used and were scared to look down.
Today, the resort and the area have changed beyond recognition. I am glad that Belarusians made this place their home at one point. We operate two hotels, mansions, here that are packed with tourists, and have so far managed to do so without a loss.
So, thank you for the invitation and the programme outlined by our Russian colleagues. Indeed, we have the opportunity to discuss not just the economy, but cultural matters as well.
Frankly speaking, we rarely talk only on the Union State agenda, but we will invite the ministers to Sirius at the level of two presidents. We are creating a children's technology park; I told you about it when you were planning Sirius, and now we have a technology park. Therefore, this is relevant.
Thank you for the invitation to talk to our colleagues, who will visit you tomorrow, on important international issues. You should know that in the context of international relations, the relations between Belarus and Russia are stable, no matter what anyone writes or says. I do not need to convince you of that: you and I know this well.
As for the support of our economy, I am also grateful to you. I often tell the Russian ambassador that Belarusian economy works as the final processing part of the Russian economy. We buy 60–70 percent of commodities and components for our main engineering products and oil refining in Russia.
Therefore, this is our common economy, and supporting us, you actually support approximately 35–40 million people, together with their families, who work at Russian enterprises that supply products to Belarus. Therefore, if someone in Russia or Belarus does not understand this, I think they will understand it soon.
Of course, there are always questions and there will be more, but we have always found solutions to all issues. I do not think this is a big problem for us.
As for food, I was surprised to hear this – because it’s the same in Belarus: poor-quality water and food – although both Russia and Belarus have both water and food – three-quarters of the population suffer and die from poor-quality food and water.
Both our countries have done research, and we have every opportunity to provide quality food to the people. Therefore, whatever conflicts or scandals may happen, you must remember that we will never deliver bad vodka or a bad snack to Russians. You must understand this clearly.
Thank you again, Mr President, for the invitation. I think that our meetings here over these few days will be beneficial for the Belarusian-Russian relations.
Vladimir Putin: I am sure they will.