ZHITOMIR, 4 October (BelTA) – The first meeting of Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky will be held in Zhitomir that is hosting the 2nd Forum of Regions of Belarus and Ukraine on 3-4 October, BelTA has learned.
Aleksandr Lukashenko is expected to arrive in Zhitomir for a working visit in the morning of 4 October. The Belarusian head of state is set to hold talks with Volodymyr Zelensky first thing. After that the two presidents will speak at a plenary session of the 2nd Forum of Regions of Belarus and Ukraine.
It is noteworthy that an exposition of large-size machines made by Belarusian and Ukrainian companies opened in close vicinity to the venue of the forum. The products on display include the machinery made by joint ventures. The presidents might want to have a look at the exposition.
The forum kicked off in Zhitomir a day before, on 3 October. The first day of the forum was packed with events. In addition to the exposition, a large fair of Belarusian and Ukrainian goods opened in Zhitomir's pedestrian street. There were concerts and other cultural events.
The central business event of the forum was the eighth session of the Belarus-Ukraine advisory council on business cooperation. The session resulted in four dozen agreements to the tune of over $540 million. The signatories include BNK Ukraine, Milkavita, BelAZ, MTZ, Belkommunmash, BMZ, the Belarusian state light industry concern Bellegprom, MAZ, Belsolod, the Baranovichi-based cotton yarn manufacturer Blakit, Mozyrsalt, the paper mill Spartak, Belarusian Cement Company, Krasny Pischevik, Mogilevliftmash, and Eximgarant of Belarus.
The heads of regional administrations of Ukraine and Belarus held an official meeting with the head of the Zhitomir Oblast State Administration. Top on the agenda of the meeting was restoration of navigation along the Dnieper River. Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Lyashenko said: “We would like the river transportation project, of which so much has been said, to start working at last. I know our head of state will talk about it tomorrow. Restoring navigation along the river is a good tradition. It is necessary to revive it.”
Gomel Oblast Governor Gennady Solovei also mentioned the region's interest in the project. The project has been debated for almost eight years already. “It will allow substantially increasing export and import shipments between regions of Belarus and Ukraine. It is an important idea everyone will benefit from,” he stressed.
After the meeting Igor Lyashenko explained that technically the Ukrainian side can easily do all the necessary work the project requires. “Specialists estimate the Ukrainian side needs to make the river deeper by 200,000m3. An executive order from the president or the prime minister is needed for it. Once it is given, the task will be accomplished,” the deputy prime minister noted. In his words, the restoration of navigation along the Dnieper River can recoup investments within one year.
BelTA reported earlier that while meeting with representatives of Ukrainian mass media on 26 September Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko stated that more active actions on the part of Ukraine are needed to implement the project to restore navigation along the Dnieper River. Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “As for Belarus, we've done everything. There was only one thing left to address (there is one thing for you to address now) – deepening of the river bed. It is necessary to make the Pripyat River and the Dnieper River deeper. We undertook to deepen the Pripyat River and we've done it.”
As part of the project, plans were made to build a deep water port on the Dnieper River near the village of Nizhniye Zhary, Bragin District, Gomel Oblast. The place is virtually at the border with Ukraine. The matter of freight transportation along the Dnieper River has been discussed repeatedly at various levels of Belarus-Ukraine contacts. Loading river-sea vessels with Belarusian cargoes for the sake of delivering them to Europe, Asia, and Africa via the Black Sea is the idea. Such vessels will not require freight transshipment in sea ports, thus greatly reducing the cost of delivery.
At the press conference for the Ukrainian media Aleksandr Lukashenko unveiled the topics that will be discussed in Zhitomir: “The economy and joint projects will be on the agenda of our negotiations. For example (this is not the main thing), missile engineering is an important topic for us. We have already started building a new missile but we do not have enough competences, experienced people. You have them. We do not need an intercontinental missile to build. Why not discuss this project and instruct specialists to work this issue through?”. "The issue of hydrocarbons is also very important for you and for us,” he added.
Speaking about the 2nd Forum of Regions of Belarus and Ukraine, Aleksandr Lukashenko said that the forum is of great significance not only for the two countries, but also for him personally. He recalled that two years ago the government of Ukraine upheld this idea and a year later the forum debuted in Gomel. “The results were not long in coming. Such events help build important interregional ties, first of all, in trade and economy,” the head of state said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the upcoming meeting with the Ukrainian president will provide a good opportunity to better understand each other's stance on different matters. “I promise I will be sincere. I am known to be an honest man, and I am used to speaking my mind,” said the Belarus president. “I guarantee you that we will find common ground,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
A number of bilateral documents are to be signed at the forum.More about President