Alexander Lukashenko: Vladimir Vladimirovich,
Here with our Russian and Belarusian colleagues present, I would like to officially welcome you to our native Belarusian soil.
Yesterday evening, I saw how, in as much as was possible, you looked with such interest at everything taking place in Belarus. We had the chance to discuss a few issues yesterday, and I think this was useful for both of us.
Today, as we agreed yesterday, our work is in two parts: the talks in narrow format, followed by the session of the Russian and Belarusian Union State Supreme State Council, where we are to examine twelve items on the agenda. I think we will be prompt in getting through this work and I am sure we will be able to settle all of these issues.
It surprises me to see how much speculation your official visit has generated both in Russia and in Belarus. I was very surprised to see that this official visit has really grabbed the West’s attention too. It is quite amazing. I want to say quite frankly that there is absolutely no hidden agenda here: we are simply meeting in Minsk as representatives of a friendly union state, and it would be surprising if you, as President of Russia, did not make an official visit to Minsk. When we were in Dushanbe we noticed that although we have regular working contacts, you had not yet made an official visit to Minsk. This is the whole explanation behind this official visit by the Russian President to Minsk.
We have many questions to examine today: matters concerning defence, our state’s security, and many economic and social issues. We do not make any secret of these issues. We will give voice to them at the press conference, no doubt, and there is nothing out of the ordinary in this.
I repeat that Belarus is ready for talks on all issues in the format that we have decided on together.
Vladimir Putin: Alexander Grigoryevich [Lukashenko], thank you very much for the invitation.
Relations between Russia and Belarus are indeed very extensive and are growing all the time. I think we can be confident that this year will see us take our trade and economic relations to a new level with a figure of more than $24 billion. This is a significant result, a very good result.
I congratulate you and the entire Belarusian leadership on the success you have obtained in resolving social and economic issues in your country. Your successes, and the Russian economy’s successful growth, make it possible for us to achieve such results.
As for the official side of things, indeed, the variety and diversity and the extent of our relations have somehow always pushed the official aspect into the background. But the time comes when we should probably also pay attention to the official side of things, and my colleagues and I were therefore pleased to accept your invitation, make use of the opportunity to hold the session of the Union State Supreme State Council here and at the same time hold talks on the whole range of our bilateral relations as part of an official visit. I am sure that our talks will be a success.
Once again, thank you very much.