President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ms Valentina Matviyenko, Ms Natalya Kochanova, friends,
I am happy to welcome the participants and organisers of the 10th Forum of Russian and Belarusian Regions in the hospitable capital of Bashkiria.
To begin with, I would like to note that regional cooperation, which is growing stronger with every year, is the heart of truly allied relations between Russia and Belarus, of integration processes in the Union State.
For more than ten years, our forum has been bringing together regional governors, lawmakers, heads of ministries and departments, representatives of business and expert communities, public and youth organisations of our two countries – all those who are developing friendly, neighbourly ties between Russia and Belarus.
Almost all regions of the Russian Federation and their Belarusian counterparts maintain mutually beneficial and multifaceted contacts. Our Far East, Siberia, the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol have intensified the development of partnerships with our Belarusian colleagues. The new regions of Russia are also interested in joining interregional interaction.
As I was told, overall about a thousand Russian and Belarusian delegates came to Ufa. Either they took part in the forum’s official programme or in the events around it – the exhibition of regional economic achievements, a joint session of the Russian and Belarusian chambers of commerce and industry or the meeting of young parliamentarians.
I know that you had truly useful and lively discussions on the entire range of urgent practical issues of bilateral partnership and development of the Union State. Among the issues being resolved with the direct participation of the regions I want to mention the deepening of industrial cooperation, implementation of agrarian projects, introduction of advanced information technology, expansion of humanitarian ties and tourism exchanges, and support for public organisations and volunteer movements.
Importantly, you signed more than a hundred cooperation agreements and commercial contracts. This impressive result is bound to promote further economic development between Russia and Belarus and strengthen interconnectedness of our economies.
I would like to emphasise that in terms of trade volume, Belarus is Russia’s number one partner among the CIS countries and fourth in the world. Last year, our trade increased by 12 percent to exceed 3 trillion rubles. This positive trend continues to strengthen; in January-April of this year, mutual trade increased by another 11 percent.
Numbers that high became possible due to, among other things, the active integration work in the regions. This work is aimed at lifting trade and administrative barriers, alignment of legislation of the two countries in the economic, social sphere, fulfilling, in a coordinated manner, the goals of national development and improving the well-being of people.
I would like to remind you that 28 industry-specific programmes approved by the Supreme State Council of the Union State have been consistently implemented since 2021. Their main purpose is to create a level playing field for the economic entities in our countries. Common financial and energy markets and transport space are being built in a concerted effort; coordinated macroeconomic, technological, industrial, agricultural and digital policies are being pursued.
Russia and Belarus are doing their best to ensure the stable operation of their economies and their immunity to the negative impact of sanctions. It goes without saying that achieving success in this matter would be difficult, or even unrealistic, without a close region-to-region partnership.
Amid unfavourable external circumstances with some Western countries refusing to cooperate and unfriendly countries closing their markets to us, Russian and Belarusian regions are doing much to expand mutual trade, which helps preserve production facilities and reorient supplies to consumers in our two countries.
Thus, exports to Russia from Belarus increased by over 70 billion rubles, because machinery and equipment, food, chemical, textile and other products that were previously sent to the West are now being sent to Russia.
With Russia’s support, a number of Belarusian regions started implementing new import-substitution investment projects worth 80 billion rubles in industries such as mechanical engineering, machine tools, microelectronics and a number of others. A full cycle of competitive high-tech manufacturing is being created.
Joint regional initiatives aimed at increasing cooperation in research, education and cultural spheres, and at preserving common historical memory and combating the falsification of history deserve special mention. In particular, the first Forum of Historians of Russia and Belarus was held in Moscow in early June.
I would like to mention in this context the Memory Train project advanced by the upper chambers of the two countries’ parliaments. Schoolchildren from Russia and Belarus, other EAEU member states, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan travelled by train to visit memorial places of the Great Patriotic War and took part in the forum's youth programme in Ufa.
I would like to thank the Forum’s organisers and participants for their work, which, to reiterate, will further strengthen strategic cooperation between Russia and Belarus.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our Belarusian friends on the occasion of your state holiday – Independence Day, which will be marked on July 3. We wish the Belarusian people happiness, peace and prosperity.
Thank you for your attention.