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President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: Mr Putin,
On the eve of the 20th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between Russia and Belarus, I would like to welcome you here, to Belarus. I want to thank you and the Russian leadership for everything we have achieved, especially in recent years. The main result of our political actions is the creation of a Union State, which I frequently think about.
People sometimes criticise us, saying that we are moving slowly, but I asked myself today, in preparation for this meeting: in what area have we or other nations achieved more? We do not have a border between our two nations, our people easily pass from Moscow to Minsk and vice versa, our citizens have equal rights – Russians in Belarus and Belarusians in Russia – and there are many other things. We have a common defence space, we have a common air defence, we have an allied grouping in the west that truly works and that has already held, I believe, three or four major exercises in Russia and Belarus. In other words, we have achieved clear results in all areas.
You rightly noted recently that in this regard, we must act and strengthen our state, the Union State, and promote it in various areas, beginning with the economy. Fortunately, we have practically a common economy. In broadening it, we created the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space. In other words, we applied our experience in this domain to a wider circle of nations.
Today, people are looking at us more closely. I must tell you that we have been receiving more and more information showing that whatever the unfolding situation, the Ukrainians are watching us very closely. For now, there are still some limitations, it is being discussed, but still. The President of Ukraine spoke about it at our last meeting at the Kremlin – you were present. It means that some people find this format attractive. We have done a great deal in the last two decades, and I think we have some good years ahead of us.
I am sure – and your statements made before and after the election confirm my confidence, – that the Eurasian Space vector will continue to develop and gain strengthen. We are ready for this.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
First of all, thank you for the invitation. This is my first visit since being elected and taking office as President of Russia, my first visit outside the Russian Federation. This is natural; after all, Belarus is a special partner, our close partner. The Belarusian people are certainly our closest relatives, not just through our cultural, ethnic and historic roots, but in terms of our current relations as well.
You have already talked about economic integration. I must note that in the last year, and you are well aware of this, our turnover grew by 40 per cent. This was one of the clear records in this area for both Belarus and for Russia – a turnover of 39 billion dollars.
Alexander Lukashenko: Almost 40 billion.
Vladimir Putin: In just the first four months of this year, the growth constituted almost 30 per cent. Ultimately, this is clear evidence that we made the right choice toward integration.
I have already talked about this, but I want to stress it again: this was done in large part thanks to you, Mr Nursultan Nazarbayev, and President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev. I want to express my particular words of gratitude to you for your position as a consistent supporter of integration processes in the post-Soviet space, both in Russia and in Belarus. Naturally, these include the Union State, and the Common Economic State, the Customs Union, and our future Eurasian Union. I am certain that we are on the right path.
I am happy for this opportunity to meet with you, to discuss not only these problems, but also our bilateral relations; we have already mentioned some of them. We have some sensitive economic and social issues, cooperation in ensuring our defence capability and security of our nations. These issues will be at the centre of our attention today. Again, thank you very much for your invitation.