SOCHI, 22 February (BelTA) – The meeting of Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin has started in Sochi, BelTA has learned.
The Belarusian head of state concurred with Vladimir Putin that it is now rare for heads of state to meet face to face. “I think we will continue this format of communication. Serious talks in plain clothes [an informal format] show that we are close people, that our nations and countries are very close. We can discuss any serious problems in any format,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.
According to him, there is no need to make things up because the two parties have done a lot, work has been done at the governmental level. The president added that the two countries had outlined about 30 areas for cooperation development, roadmaps. During an earlier meeting in Sochi, the heads of state agreed that the governments of the two countries would work on and update them. “Indeed, the governments have done a lot. The governments of both Russia and Belarus. They have updated the format. Ambassador Semashko has reported to me today that there may be six or seven roadmaps (they have a new name now, they have been rebranded) which our governments are working on. The rest is ready for signing. So we have an action plan,” said the Belarusian leader.
Aleksandr Lukashenko also thanked the Russian leader for the support Russia had provided to the Belarusian economy. “I would like to say it was not in vain. The money has not been thrown away,” he stressed.
The head of state said that Russia accounts for at least half of Belarus' trade, and a relatively small Belarus is the fourth major trading partner for Russia. The country consumes a lot of Russian components and raw materials. “Thank you for that. Please know that we did not throw money away. We invest in the final production, buying a huge amount of raw materials and components in Russia. This volume is increasing all the time. If we implement the planned projects, which we have approved for five years, imports from Russia will increase significantly,” said the Belarusian leader.
Aleksandr Lukashenko explained that the full commissioning of the Belarusian nuclear power plant would let the country save about 5 billion cubic meters of natural gas. The need for this raw material in general will not decrease, given the plans to build a new nitrogen plant in Grodno. “This means natural gas. We will still consume natural gas in ever-increasing amounts. The project costs Br1.2 to 1.3 billion. A new plant. We have enough experience in building such plants. We have one working already. We want to increase the volume of nitrogen fertilizers. If you give the corresponding order to study the issue, we are ready to implement this project together with Gazprom,” the president said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko also expressed his gratitude for cooperation in education, in particular, for the possibility for Belarusian students to get education in Russian universities. “Although we have a decent level of education, our young people actively use universities of the Russian Federation to get a decent education,” he said.
The president also touched upon the topic of coronavirus control and vaccine production. He praised the achievements of Russian scientists in this area. “You already have three registered vaccines. There are more in development. We are going that way, too. By autumn, we will have our own vaccine, we have specialists. Right now we have been actively buying your vaccines. This topic - vaccines - demonstrates the highest level of science in the Russian Federation. Science cannot exist without education. This has had a great influence on our students in what concerns the attractiveness of getting education in the Russian Federation. Young people from Russia come to Belarus, too. Thank God, we do not have any barriers here,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
“Thank you for listening to my request and opening up rail traffic between the two countries, increasing the capacity and the ability for our citizens to travel by air. I think very soon we will be able to open the automobile traffic as well. We do not have a problem here. We are not closed,” said the Belarusian head of state. He noted that Russia had sent experts to Belarus and they had made sure that the countries were approximately at the same level of disease incidence. “Fortunately, incidence has now begun to decline. Hopefully, by autumn or maybe summer, we will come close to zero,” the Belarusian president said.
Speaking about the cooperation between the two countries, Vladimir Putin stressed that the issues of financial support are, of course, important, but it is far from being the main thing. “The main thing is joint work and cooperation in the real sector of the economy. During the epidemic we did see a slight drop in trade, by about 15%. The mutual trade still amounted to $28.5 billion. These are significant figures,” he said.
The heads of state continued talks as they went skiing.