MINSK, 24 December (BelTA) – Details of Belarusian-Russian negotiations on supplies of oil and natural gas were revealed by Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko in his interview with Editor-in-Chief of the radio station Ekho Moskvy [Echo of Moscow] Aleksei Venediktov, BelTA has learned.
The reporter wondered what Aleksandr Lukashenko thought about Russian mass media portraying him as a capricious man in the wake of recent talks with Vladimir Putin.
Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “How am I capricious? Because I am negotiating instead of bargaining right now? I didn't want these matters elevated to the level of the presidents [the matter of tighter integration, which was discussed during several meetings of Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin]. I've often criticized the Russian government for forcing the presidents to deal with these matters. Now on New Year's eve we are starting to quarrel instead of having a meeting with my close friend Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, drinking a shot of vodka or moonshine (I will bring some from Belovezhskaya Pushcha), and shaking hands. Story of my life today! How can one keep economy straight if we are told that the price for natural gas has to be $152?”
If Belarus accepts the natural gas price Russia pushes for, it will have to seek alternative supplies just like, for instance, Russia did by starting the construction of the Nord Stream pipeline after encountering problems with gas transit in Ukraine. “I will do exactly the same: I will seek an alternative (I will have to do it anyway). I am not hiding it from Russia's leadership,” the president noted. Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that Belarusian-Russian relations had already experienced problems with supplies of oil and natural gas in the past and Belarus had found a source of alternative supplies, in particular, in Venezuela.
As possible options Belarus is now considering reverse deliveries of oil to the country's modern, fully upgraded refineries. However, it may reduce Russia's ability to transport oil to other countries in transit via Belarus.
“It sounds like a threat,” Aleksei Venediktov noted. “Why do you force me to make such decisions?” Aleksandr Lukashenko responded. “I don't want that.”
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that Belarus is the third largest consumer of Russian natural gas after Germany and Italy. “We buy a lot of gas from you. Do you want to lose the market? No, you don't. It would be stupid,” he said.