SOCHI, 23 February (BelTA) - Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on 22 February. The meeting lasted more than six hours, BelTA has learned.
'Serious talks in an informal setting'
Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin met in Krasnaya Polyana in the afternoon - without ties, without strict protocol rules or officials usually accompanying them to important meetings. The informal look of the heads of state was immediately noticed: the Belarusian leader was wearing a checkered bomber, and the Russian president - jeans and a jacket. "Serious negotiations without a tie" show that the presidents are just close people. So are the peoples of the two countries, Aleksandr Lukashenko would say later.
Welcoming Aleksandr Lukashenko to Krasnaya Polyana, Vladimir Putin noted that face-to-face meetings have become a rare thing recently. Therefore, according to the Russian president, they carry a special importance. The protocol part of the meeting for journalists lasted just under 13 minutes. The Russian president described the agenda in general terms, emphasizing the high level of "interaction, strategic partnership and allied relations" between the countries.
"Mechanisms of our interaction have been fine-tuned, work well. Our colleagues communicate with each other every day, addressing certain issues that are facing us. I am pleased to say that we remain committed to the high level of cooperation, strategic partnership and allied relations," Vladimir Putin said.
Vladimir Putin hailed the successful cooperation of the two countries in trade, agriculture, humanitarian affairs. He recalled the Belarusian nuclear power plant project and said that products from Belarus are very popular: they are always high-quality, affordable."
"We are very close people. We share culture, language, religion and history which is based not only on the heroic recent past but also which goes back centuries. We are all united by this, and, of course, it is very good that we keep working on this front too," he said and invited his Belarusian colleague to go skiing. It is the resort after all.
Plan of action
Aleksandr Lukashenko cited specific figures saying that the two countries had outlined about 30 areas to develop cooperation. During the previous meeting in Sochi, the heads of state agreed that the governments of the two countries would work on so-called roadmaps to 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 a plan of action,” said the Belarusian leader.
Talking about trade, economic cooperation and mutually-beneficial projects, Aleksandr Lukashenko touched upon the issue of raw materials. He said that once fully commissioned, 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 Br1.2-1.3 billion. This is going to be a new plant. We have enough experience in building such plants. We have one working already. We want to increase the production of nitrogen fertilizers. If you give the corresponding order to study the project, we are ready to implement it together with Gazprom,” the president said.
Cooperation in real economic sector is the key to success
Vladimir Putin stressed that the issues of financial support are, of course, important, but they are far from being the main thing. “The main thing is joint work and cooperation in the real sector of the economy. During the pandemic we did see a slight drop in trade, about 15%. The mutual trade however still amounted to $28.5 billion. These are significant figures,” he said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko also spoke about the response to the pandemic, hailing the achievements of Russian scientists: “You have three registered vaccines already. There are more to come. We are going that way, too. By the autumn, we will have our own vaccine, we have specialists. Right now we have been actively buying your vaccines.”
Russia has shared a technology to manufacture the coronavirus vaccine with Belarus. According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the production will be launched in Belarus in early March.
Alpine skiing, lunch and cheese ‘with character'
After a brief but rather intense introduction, the negotiations continued behind closed doors. The presidents talked one-on-one for about an hour, and after that decided to take a break. They were on a ski resort after all.
The presidents went for a snowmobile ride and then hit the slopes. Aleksandr Lukashenko was wearing a black outfit, while Vladimir Putin was clad in the colors of the Russian flag. Apparently, they continued the talks that started during the day. The video footage suggests that the heads of state occasionally stopped on the slopes to exchange a couple of words, and were communicating while taking lifts over the snow-capped mountains. What were the presidents discussing? Usually the topics of such discussions are communicated to the media by ministers and officials, but this time they were not anywhere close.
After skiing, Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin met for lunch and when it was over exchanged gifts. The Belarusian leader gave his Russian counterpart a basket of treats from his homeland: cheese ‘with character', salo, jamon ... It appears that the Russian president was rewarded handsomely for praising Belarusian products.
The intense talks between the heads of state ended not earlier than 9pm. Thus, the presidents talked one-on-one for about six and a half hours. This Sochi evening came to a close with smiles and a good mood, eyewitnesses say.