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02 March 2021, 12:21

Lukashenko unveils details of talks with Putin, responds to speculations

MINSK, 2 March (BelTA) – Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko unveiled the details of the recent talks with Russia President Vladimir Putin and responded to speculations at the meeting to discuss Belarus-Russia cooperation in the military sector on 2 March, BelTA informs.

“After the Sochi talks with the president of Russia, we agreed that a number of issues will be discussed at the level of high-ranking officials of the government and law enforcement agencies. First of all, the defense minister and the state secretary. We identified those issues. A lot was written in the press about the meeting. Unfortunately, 70% of it was absolute nonsense and lies. I am not even going to enumerate all the issues that were discussed. There were dozens of them. Many issues. Besides, we revised and discussed virtually all issues of the Belarusian-Russian relations,” the president said.

In his words, the meeting with the Russian leader focused on interaction in the Union State, cooperation, defense partnership, joint projects, measures to respond to various threats, including external ones. For example, the Russian loan for Belarus was not discussed, it was not on the agenda. The presidents did not discuss the topic of the so-called transfer of power either, while some mass media outlets wrote about it.

On Belarus-Russia integration

“The context of these talks, if we can say so, was limited by the Union State agenda: how the Union State was formed, what our agreements were, where we are now, what we can aim for,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He responded to speculations and lies in some media outlets. The head of state remarked that “Belarusians are living in their own home” although it is small in comparison with neighboring Russia. “Belarus is a sovereign and independent state. The world has changed so much that the talks about Belarus joining Russia, or Russia joining Belarus, or any other kind of merger with single administration…. The world has changed so much that it would be foolish even to consider it. Secondly, it is absolutely unnecessary. As a sovereign independent state, we can build elations that will be even stronger than the relations between administrative entities in the Russian Federation,” the Belarusian leader is convinced.

According to the president, Belarus and Russia have virtually the same level of development in various fields. If the countries want, they will be able to build such a system of engagement. “We have done a lot for that. We are not talking about it right now. Our people have equal opportunities. In spite of all difficulties, economic operators find common ground and have achieved a lot,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

According to the head of state, misunderstanding still exists in certain fields. He mentioned the situation with sugar prices in Russia as an example: President Vladimir Putin responded to the price hike in a very tough way and reproached the Russian Union of Sugar Manufacturers. “It turned out that in 2019 and 2020 they made the president believe that Belarusians flooded the Russian market with their sugar. But it is impossible,” he stressed.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, they were saying that Belarusian manufacturers imported sugar cane, processed it and sold on the domestic market, while exporting beetroot sugar to Russia. “It is impossible because ur sugar production facilities were revamped to process beetroot only. We have not imported sugar cane for nearly 15 years. We have an iron-clad agreement in this field. But you see what food manufacturers in the Russian Federation are doing. It is good that President Putin responded in a tough way,” the head of state said. “There is certain competition in Russia. They drive entire industries into the corner and accuse us of dumping. We do not.”

On roadmaps and tax systems

During the talks in Sochi the two leaders discussed the so-called roadmaps. The president explained that the majority of them are ready and can be signed right now. But it is essential to address some remaining issues. For example, the parties have long discussed the possible approximation of the tax systems. "The main thing here is to make sure everything is transparent for both Belarus and Russia, to avoid misunderstanding or suspicions," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Speaking about the alignment of tax laws, the head of state explained that this topic will be discussed once again at the level of experts. “Putin suggested sending Mikhail Mishustin [Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin]. He wants our governments and tax authorities to sit down and to explain to me the essence of the Russian proposals after working on them for about a month. I agreed. They are welcome to come, have a sit-down and then we will see what the Russian proposals are about. If this is really something new, if this benefits Belarus, we will embrace it. As Putin said, if these ideas do not find support, we will scrap them immediately. His proposal was: let's do what we can today. What's wrong with that? I don't see anything wrong with that."

On the union without weak spots

According to the head of state, the ministries of defense and foreign affairs of Belarus and Russia set an example of cooperation for other government bodies to follow. “We will continue to coordinate topical issues of our defense policy, foreign policy. We are determined (we shared this opinion) to make the Union State a perfect association of Belarus and Russia. No one will reproach us for impinging upon somebody's independence, sovereignty. We will do it in a beautiful and decent manner,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

On countering sanctions

“We want to build relations that will make us immune to any sanctions. Sanctions against Russia were introduced yesterday, sanctions against Belarus - the day before yesterday,” the Belarusian leader noted. “Listen, we can feed 150 million people on this territory, can't we? Sure thing! We analyzed the situation from all angles. We concluded that we just need to plan things, like Chinese and Japanese do. As far as it is possible, we need to draw economic development plans.”

On cooperation

“The topic of our cooperation was thoroughly analyzed,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He mentioned the civilian aviation plant which was relocated from Minsk to the area where Minsk National Airport is situated. The president recalled that the topic of possible cooperation in the aviation industry was discussed at the EAEU summit. Taking into account that Russia developed a midrange jetliner, it is possible to produce spare parts and units and to provide them to foreign partners in the EAEU. “I told him in Sochi that we had relocated this factory from the center of Minsk, that it had been built. And we are ready to provide maintenance service to the aircraft which is made in Russia and to produce spare parts and units. We can advance our cooperation. It is beneficial for us,” the president said.

He also commented on cooperation between defense industry enterprises, including Integral, in the aviation industry and the production of armored vehicles. “These Belarusian plants are in demand there. The Russian president said that it is very interesting for them. Therefore, the government, the State Secretariat, the Defense Ministry should step up efforts in this area,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

On finance

According to the head of state, the opening of new credit lines was not discussed at the meeting with Vladimir Putin in Sochi.

“A lot was written and said about loans. We did not discuss any loans. I did not even have this topic in my materials. Nobody asked for additional loans. We do not need that,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

He also explained where the topic started from. When the construction of the Belarusian nuclear power plant was in the pipeline, Belarus was discussing a loan with the Russian leadership for this purpose, which is a normal global practice. "Back then I asked Putin in a friendly way to keep the unused part of the loan, if any, and re-channel it for other needs in Belarus, let's say for the military," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

According to him, Belarus indeed saved on the construction, thanks to the lower cost of construction services, convenient logistics for the delivery of components compared to the construction of nuclear power plants with the use of the Russian technologies in other countries. “Naturally, the construction of the plant was cheaper here. That was where the theme came from. But we didn't discuss it. I remember the promise of the Russian president. I said that if it were not a burden for the Russian economy, then we would like to use the remainder of this loan, including for military purposes, maybe to purchase aircraft and more advanced equipment. There was no rejection of this proposal," the president said.

The only proposal of the Belarusian side in the financial sphere was about possible participation of Gazprom in the modernization of Grodno Azot. “Maybe, they will be interested. If they don't, we will build it on our own. We will need it. The global demand for potash fertilizers is high,” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked. “If Gazprom is interested, we can reach a construction agreement with them. That's all, we did not discuss other money issues during the talks. Therefore, if they want to reproach for begging money again, it's not true. Thank God, we are doing well amid all difficulties caused by the pandemic and the closure of borders, we have enough resources.”

On the development of military cooperation

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the conversation moved from the defense industry to defense. “We see what is happening. They have got so brazen… Just a couple of weeks ago, NATO jets flew straight to our border. What were we supposed to do? We scrambled Su-30 to intercept them. They turned away. This means they will constantly put us to the test, and we will have to respond,” the head of state said.

The president recalled that during the 2014 World Ice Hockey Championship Russian jets arrived in Belarus for a joint duty call with Belarusian pilots. Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that this experience can come in handy in the future. “Give us these jets [in addition to what Belarus has]. But these jets, just like back then, should be flown by Russians and Belarusians together. There are enough bases, no need to build new ones, why waste money ... It is better to buy or build new aircraft for this,” he said.

“I must say that the Russian president was quite receptive to these proposals. Naturally, if they use our bases and our pilots fly together with the Russians, then we should ask for weapons to equip these aircraft. These must be the most advanced weapons. We are not talking about nuclear warheads. We are talking about conventional weapons. This matter dominated our negotiations,” the president said.

The sides drew serious attention to the military cooperation. Belarus and Russia are going to continue their activities as part of the joint army group. Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that Russia has one of the strongest armies in the world, and Belarusian soldiers can use their best practices and methods, can use cutting-edge military equipment together with their Russian colleagues. “The president of Russia supported it with enthusiasm,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

n the destabilization of the situation in the countries

According to the president, the meeting focused on the social and political situation in the two countries. “Of course, there are attempts to rock our boat, to rock their boat. Not even confrontation but a war is currently underway in mass media. We realize that there will be attempts to break us. We shared classified information, secret documents which are obtained by our State Security Committee, the Main Directorate of the General Staff and other agencies,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He stressed that destructive forces will be trying to keep protest activates afloat using fake news. “This is the main goal of theirs: to distribute as much fake news as possible to keep these protests afloat at least till April. They need to rattle up people in Belarus, to prevent, I am quoting here, ‘a wave of activities from fading away'. Therefore, they will generate all kinds of fake news. We are prepared for it,” the head of state said.

“Let them search and show. And then we will take some protesters by the hand and show them. They are already using drones. I am watching this and thinking: “Look, if you want to find out something, you can contact me. We will show you any facility.” They are even taking photos of some private houses and making a film, like the one about Putin, in order to attribute it to Lukashenko. It will not work. Once again I would like to tell you and everyone who listens: Lukashenko has not stolen anything from the state for the quarter of the century. There are no palaces either,” said the president.

On foreign policy

Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that some people still criticize Belarus for its multi-vector policies. He added that such people do not even know the essence of the foreign policy of the Belarusian state.

“Our multi-vector foreign policy is conditioned, first of all, by our economic policy. If the Russian Federation is ready to consume all of Belarus' exports today, then we will channel all our exports there. Russia, however, is not ready to do it. We have to sell our machinery, food, petrochemicals, and chemicals in third markets. We have to ensure this using both diplomatic and political means,” said the president.

Belarus is trying to build friendly relations with other neighbors. The country is interested in cooperation with the West, where there are financial and technological resources, and with China. “How can we not work on this vector? At the same time we say that Russia is the main direction we are ready to move along,” the Belarusian leader said. According to him, the Russian government understands Belarus in this matter and supports it.

On the “transfer of power” in Belarus

The topic of the “transfer of power” was not discussed in Sochi. However, some mass media outlets wrote about it. The president said: “There cannot be any transfer of power in Belarus. I have already said: no children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will lay claims to this post after President Lukashenko. Everything will be done in accordance with the Constitution and the law. We will adopt the Constitution, as I said, in January-February 2022. That's all. Even the four of you [the participants of the meeting] will be able to take part in the parliamentary and presidential elections after the adoption of the Constitution.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that the home policy of Belarus is the affair of Belarus. “Therefore, we did not even discuss any transfer of power. It would be even an improper move on behalf of the host of that meeting. It is up to us to decide how to handle the domestic affairs of this country. As far as the foreign policy is concerned, we agreed to continue coordinating it,” the Belarusian leader added.

On common Fatherland from Brest to Vladivostok

“All our negotiations were based on developing a unified system in all the areas so that our cooperation is even closer than the one between regions and republics within the Russian Federation. We have a firm understanding that it is our common Fatherland from Brest to Vladivostok that is home to two independent states today,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko added that he, as the first president of Belarus, is more interested than anyone else in preserving the sovereignty of the Belarusian state. “Otherwise, you can cross out the entire quarter of the century that I have worked as president,” he said.

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