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President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: Mr Putin, friends,
I want to once again welcome you to your Belarus, where you certainly aren’t strangers. As President Putin just said, it is deeply symbolic that the first visit he makes is to Belarus, because Belarus is Russia’s closest and most faithful ally. This has been, is, and always will be the case. As always, we will consistently speak out in support of developing the closest possible friendly relations with our main strategic partner, the Russian Federation. This fully speaks to the will of the people of our nations.
Your visit is occurring on the eve of the 20th anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations between our states. This date has become an important landmark in our common history. In these years, we have travelled the serious path of building bilateral relations and reached exceptional results in this regard. Today, we can state that there is no more-advanced integration within the post-Soviet space than in the Union State. Millions of people have gotten real benefits from it. I already said that our work within the framework of the Union is also serving as the foundation for the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space.
As we noted, in 2011, the turnover between our states was 40 billion dollars, and this year, Mr Putin, you have stated that we already have a 30 per cent increase against last year’s high growth levels. Neither Russia nor Belarus has had this rate of growth with any other nation. This year, we will surpass the 40 billion dollar mark in turnover.
However, in the current context, it is imperative to provide more than continued increases in trade volume. We also need to create modern companies, which we are doing, we need to create joint holding companies, stop competing with one another at least within the framework of the Customs Union, and enter other nations’ markets together. We are ready to do this.
I am grateful to the Russians and to you, Mr Putin, for the decision you made: you supported us in building a nuclear power plant in Belarus. These are cutting-edge technologies. I was just discussing this problem with Mr Putin. I think that we need to become more active in order to build the most modern, best, most beautiful power station in the world, here in the centre of Europe. And in uniting our efforts, we will not only build a nuclear power plant, but also resolve other issues that stand before us today. Following our long-standing tradition, Mr Putin, I think we will personally monitor the most serious, breakthrough areas of our cooperation.
Just now, we had a one-on-one discussion of many problems, and we reached complete mutual understanding on these issues; naturally, we do not have any topics that are off-limits to us. We are united not only with regard to politics and the economy – we say this openly – but in military technical cooperation as well, and we will build our relations for the good of our people, without threatening anyone, without standing in anyone’s way, without creating problems for anybody. We have enough of our own problems to resolve. We are full of determination to resolve them together with the Russian people.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
I want to once again thank you for the invitation. I am very happy for the opportunity to discuss our bilateral issues in such an expanded format. Belarus Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Russia Andrei Kobyakov is looking at me – he drank so much of my blood over the last few years, and you have sent him to us in Moscow again, so that he can suck out the rest. (Laughter.)
In the past, over a short period of time we provided direct assistance to Belarus via various channels totalling about five billion dollars, and I must say that we see how Belarusian leadership and the economic bloc in the Government of Belarus are taking complicated but absolutely correct decisions to improve the economic situation. Naturally, we presume that the results the Belarusian economy is now starting to demonstrate will have a large-scale impact in the near future. We can see that right now, the Belarusian economy runs a budget surplus. Naturally, this is a very good indicator.
And I know that you have a planned GDP increase of over five per cent this year; and last year, you had very high growth as well. This is a sign that our joint efforts within the framework of the Common Economic Space are taking effect and the conscious, absolutely justified actions by the Government of Belarus are leading to this positive result. Yes, naturally, it is complicated, sometimes even painful, but this is something you must pass through.
We can see what is happening in certain European nations that did not take timely steps. Right now, they are living through very difficult times. Naturally, we wish them success in restoring their economies, but again, we welcome what is being done here in Belarus with regard to economic bloc. Naturally, we will support this disposition toward economic rehabilitation.
Our common decisions on energy resources played their role as well. After all, we went from $286 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters of gas last year to $165.5 this year. We decreased prices nearly two-fold. This is significant. We also came to an agreement with regard to oil.
Mr Lukashenko and I were just talking about broadening our cooperation in infrastructure, including possible transhipment of Belarusian products in our ports in the Baltic. Overall, in terms of economic cooperation, we have done a great deal and it is reflecting positively not only on the Belarusian economy, but the Russian economy as well, because we have a very high level of cooperation and this has a positive influence on the development of the Russian economy.
And naturally, our political dialogue remains at the highest level. Just today, we were discussing with colleagues how very soon, in June, the head of the upper house of Russia’s parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, will be making a visit. State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin will also arrive, as well as the heads of various ministries and departments. So the dialogue has become very intensive and positive in nature. Let me say again, this is due significantly to the position of the Belarusian leadership with regard to this integration, this work with Russia, and thanks to the position of the President of Belarus. We are very grateful to you and happy for the opportunity to exchange views with you today on bilateral issues.