Russian-Belarusian talks in expanded format took place in Minsk. They were followed by a bilateral conversation between the leaders of Russia and Belarus.
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Beginning of Russian-Belarusian talks
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: Mr Putin, friends,
Allow me to cordially welcome you, all of my Russian colleagues, to the hospitable Belarusian capital. By force of circumstances, you, as this group, did not come to see us for a long time, but our respective ministers meet often. You are always welcome guests for us.
The break in visits to Minsk did not prevent us from remaining in constant contact. Even our so-called Western partners were very worried about us getting together so often. We met regularly both in the Russian Federation and at international venues.
Our governments are working hard as well, and many meetings are held at the level of regions and companies which is seen in the steady growth of trade figures and resolution of many issues that previously hindered our cooperation.
The strengthening of Belarusian-Russian ties has become a natural response to the changing situation in the world, where our resilience is being constantly tested.
I believe that despite certain irregularities, we are still able to find effective answers to various challenges and threats. Landmark decisions about closer integration of our states once again show the world at large that pandemics, crises or sanctions can be overcome only if we stand united.
As Mr Putin and I often say, Russia and Belarus are open to dialogue with other countries, including European countries. I hope that they will soon heed the voice of reason, and we will begin a constructive discussion of security for all and the future international order.
Protecting democracy and progress with restrictions and military force used against our states no longer impresses even local voters who have felt in full measure the shortcomings of this policy. Hard times make us show political will and focus on results regarding all items on the bilateral visit’s agenda. This is our answer. Our success in this work will determine the spot our countries will have tomorrow in the new system of international coordinates.
We must avoid at all costs the mistakes that were made after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Providing solutions to sensitive economic issues that stand between people and prosperity and ultimately determine the people’s support for our public and political reforms is our unconditional priority.
Our joint steps made it possible to overcome potential problems caused by the sanctions pressure. Specialists from Belarus and Russia have done a good job drafting Union programmes, which the President of Russia and I approved some time ago. There are breakthroughs in almost all areas, but so far not everything has worked out the way we wanted it to, which is holding back our progress.
You are aware that our respective governments are telling us that they have exhausted negotiations with regard to a number of sensitive issues. They reported to us that the parties had formulated their positions, and today we will discuss these positions again during an expanded meeting. The governments believe that without you, Mr Putin, and me they will not be able to come to an agreement on certain issues. That is why we convened this meeting today. Well, let us once again have an in-depth discussion and make appropriate political decisions, if need be.
President Putin and I meet quite often. Truth be told, we have discussed all issues across the board, but defence and security were our priorities lately. We agreed sometime in the middle of the year that we would sit down and discuss our socioeconomic priorities in December. So, I propose focusing on strategic areas that can determine the near future of Belarus and Russia.
Taking issues off the table in the run-up to the New Year, which the people of our countries have always hoped would bring them a better life, has become a tradition. I am convinced that today’s decisions will not disappoint the Belarusians and the Russians and will help improve their well-being and reinforce their confidence as they look to the future.
Mr Putin, since our gathering is taking place almost on New Year's Eve, let me, on behalf of the Belarusian people – I think I, and not only I, but all your friends, heads of state that are close to you, will have an opportunity to send you personal greetings – wish you and the Russian people, a happy upcoming New Year.
Thank you. Please.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Lukashenko, colleagues,
Thank you very much for the invitation.
Indeed, our goal is to review some of the results in a wide variety of areas. Recently, we have really paid much attention to the issues of security and international cooperation and in general, we should be content with the development of our relations on this track.
Today, we really wanted – and agreed on this with the President of Belarus – to sum up the results of the work done by our governments and different agencies and departments, first of all in the sphere of economy.
I would like to note – this is common knowledge, but I would still like to stress it – that Belarus is not only our good neighbour that we have been working with through all the previous decades with due account of each other’s interests, but Belarus is also definitely our ally in the most direct sense of the word.
This is why we have tried to resolve any issues, including economic, based on this information.
As for the economy, as President Lukashenko noted, this is our priority, and thus, we need to review the results today. If some issues are still considered outstanding, we must resolve them. In effect, we have come here to look for solutions together and achieve the desired goals.
I would like to note that last year, in 2021, we took a big step forward in developing our trade and economic ties. I would like to emphasise that our trade grew by one third last year to US$38.5 billion before any event related to the special military operation. This is a very good and important indicator.
However, in the ten months of this year, our trade increased by another 10 percent over last year, which is also very positive. If we had record trade last year, we have grounds to believe that we will set a new record this year. Our trade will probably reach US$40 billion.
We are actively working almost in all areas. In energy, as we noted with the President of Belarus, Russia continues to carry out the nuclear plant project, to its own detriment – we are building a nuclear power plant. The first unit is operational and is now replacing – maybe, the Energy Minister can prompt us as to how much?
Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov: About five, over four…
Vladimir Putin: Yes, somewhere around 4.5 billion cubic metres of gas.
Alexander Lukashenko: Explain that “to Russia’s detriment” you mean that you could have been selling gas, otherwise people will make all kinds of assumptions.
Vladimir Putin: We could have sold more gas, but instead, the power plant is operational and generating energy equivalent to 4.5 billion cubic metres of gas, gas that Gazprom could have supplied to the Belarusian market.
We are ready to further develop this project and to build the next units. But what I think is most important is that we are ready to, and we are doing this – creating this industry there, to train people and develop science in this area. We already have tentative agreements on this. We are also ready to discuss them and to act, to move further in this direction.
We also have other interesting areas including cooperation and very important areas in the financial sphere, including within the EAEU. There are areas related to military-technical cooperation, and this is not limited to mutual supplies. I believe it is extremely important that this is our joint work, development and cooperation in this area, including development of high-tech production lines.
All this is in the focus of our attention. Today, we should review what the departments and the governments have done in general and what we need to do in the short-term.
This also applies to space – we have corresponding plans there.