President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Lukashenko, colleagues, friends,
I am delighted to welcome the participants of the Seventh Forum of Russian and Belarusian Regions.
Recently, on September 14, the President of Belarus and I spoke about the importance of cooperation between the regions of the two countries in Sochi. We agreed we should do more to encourage the implementation of mutually beneficial projects between the constituent entities of the Russian Federation and the regions of the Republic of Belarus, to more often organise mutual trips of their heads, and contacts between the respective political, business, public and academic communities.
This means that the leaders of Russia and Belarus are interested in giving an additional impetus to the development of interregional ties. These contacts are among the most important components of truly fraternal, neighbourly, and truly allied relations between Russia and Belarus, relations based on the principles of equality and respect for each other's interests.
I would like to note that Russia and Belarus are not only consistently deepening their multifaceted bilateral ties, but they are also committed to implementing the Treaty on the Creation of the Union State. Our countries are also purposefully involved in the Eurasian Economic Union activities.
We have joint defence construction projects; we cooperate in countering acute modern challenges and threats, also as part of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.
So today, considering the difficult situation the Republic of Belarus is going through, including the unprecedented external pressure that followed the presidential elections, I would like to repeat once again: relations between Russia and Belarus are not prone to either time or momentary sentiment because they have a solid foundation and our states are united by strong cultural and spiritual ties rooted in the past centuries, extensive kinship and family ties, and a common history.
It appears very important and logical that this year, which marks the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, the significance of the Victory’s historical legacy became the keynote of this forum’s plenary session.
During the anniversary events marking the Great Victory, Russian and Belarusian military personnel marched across Red Square side by side. The President of Belarus and I attended the unveiling of the Rzhev Memorial dedicated to the selfless heroism of Soviet soldiers.
We will never forget how our fathers and grandfathers defended their homeland and liberated Europe. We defended and will continue to defend the historical truth about that war, the reasons behind it, its outcome and lessons.
By tradition, the forum reviews the entire spectrum of Russia-Belarus cooperation, in the sphere of politics, the economy, industrial cooperation, high technology, cultural and humanitarian affairs. But, without doubt, trade and investment are the priority areas of cooperation between the Russian and Belarusian regions.
Every year during this forum, numerous deals are closed and contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars are signed. As a result, last year our bilateral trade reached $35.5 billion.
More than 2,000 companies with Russian participation operate in Belarus. A major hi-tech investment project, the construction of the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant in the Grodno Region, which costs around $10 billion, is being successfully implemented.
As you are aware, Russia is the primary investor in the Belarusian economy as Russian companies account for almost half of all direct foreign capital investment in Belarus. We are providing significant lending and financial support to the Belarusian economy. These funds contribute to building new production facilities and creating new jobs in the Belarusian regions.
Russia and Belarus are closely cooperating in countering the COVID-19 epidemic and providing mutual help and support. I have already mentioned that Belarus will be the first country to receive Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus.
We are currently taking measures to normalise the transport connections between Russia and Belarus that were interrupted by the quarantine. We hope that it will intensify direct interregional exchanges across all areas and will be an important step towards resuming full-scale cultural and humanitarian contacts.
I would like to wish all the participants at this forum of regions productive work, useful exchange of opinions and experiences. I am convinced that the agreements reached during this event will further strengthen the bilateral strategic cooperation in the interests of the brotherly nations of Russia and Belarus.