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Lukashenko welcomes tremendous progress in cooperation with Russia

ST. PETERSBURG (BelTA) – Belarus and Russia have made tremendous progress in the development of cooperation, including through the Union State project, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg on 20 December, BelTA has learned.

The head of state stressed that the countries have made significant achievements in social sector and in economy. “A lot has been done. For some reason, we do not always talk about what has been done. We have achieved a lot, not only in social matters, for our people. We have done a lot in economy," the president said.

The head of state noted that Belarus and Russia have created the common defense space, air defense, a group of forces, and the common security space.

“Russia has no problems with flying over Belarus. We have always acted in good faith. We have never had any issues with air transport. Our airports operate very efficiently. Even regional ones cooperate well," the president added.

“We have never had complaints with regard to our diplomatic agencies. There is the common border, customs in the west. Some 110 million tonnes of cargo is transported from east to west and from west to east through Belarus, which implies the common customs, the border," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He also noted that Belorusneft returned to work in Russia. It provides maintenance services reviving old fields and also produces oil together with other companies.

The progress is tremendous. Today Belarus buys from you not only raw materials but also component parts. More than 10 million work at enterprises in Russia, with which Belarusian companies cooperate manufacturing end products. We usually multiply this figure by 4, keeping families in mind. Very many people work for the bilateral trade and joint production cooperation,” the Belarusian leader said.

“After the collapse of the Soviet Union, we have not swayed away far from each other in economic, political and social sectors. This is also a great achievement of this treaty [the Union State Treaty]. If we have not implemented the document in full, this does not mean that we have gone separate ways, as it happened with, for example, Russia and other former Soviet Union countries (not only with the Baltic States or Ukraine). This the achievement we have made in recent years. But you are right: we still have something to work on,” the head of state said.

Vladimir Putin stated that the meeting was taking place ahead of the EAEU and CIS summits. “On 8 December, we marked 20 years since the signing of the Union State Treaty. I would like to say that although not everything has been done yet, the progress has been significant. When we launched the process, the trade was $9 billion. Today it is $35.5 billion. This is a tangible result. We have also solved many issues in the social sector,” the Russian president said.

He also stressed that the experience gained by Belarus and Russia as part of the Union State was widely used by other integration associations, including the EAEU.

“I know that our colleagues have been actively working after our previous meeting [in Sochi on 7 December]. We are very glad to welcome you to continue this discussion,” the Russian leader added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin previously met in Sochi on 7 December. Then the meeting lasted for about five and a half hours. As a result, Russian Economic Development Minister Maksim Oreshkin told reporters that the parties worked very fruitfully on several fronts: agriculture, communications, customs, and oil market regulation. “A lot of progress has been made, even on oil and gas. The positions have come significantly closer," the minister said.

Belarusian Ambassador to Russia Vladimir Semashko also revealed some details about the agreements reached at the highest and government levels. Thus, the parties fully agreed on the draft integration road maps on electricity and cooperation between customs services, found approaches to the compensation to Belarus of costs over the oil tax maneuver in Russia. The parties also resolved the issues related to the lifting of restrictions on Belarusian food supplies to Russia. It is expected that the parties will soon negotiate the price of Russian gas to Belarus. The country also expects to receive $70 million in compensation for the supply of contaminated Russian oil.

On 10 December, Aleksandr Lukashenko held a telephone conversation with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The parties, among other things, discussed the results of the Belarusian-Russian talks in Sochi, further steps on the integration agenda, trade and economic cooperation and ways to remove problematic issues in the sector.

The following days saw numerous contacts both at the level of the prime ministers and the heads of the working group set up to work out proposals for further Belarusian-Russian integration. On 18 December, a telephone conversation took place between Sergei Rumas and Dmitry Medvedev on Belarus' initiative. The two premiers agreed that before the scheduled meeting in St Petersburg on 20 December the leaders of Belarus and Russia would be informed on the agreements reached at the talks between heads of the working group Dmitry Krutoi and Maksim Oreshkin.

In early September the prime ministers of Belarus and Russia approved the draft action program to implement the Union State Treaty and 31 road maps to implement the action program. Some of them are still pending to be agreed upon.

Aleksandr Lukashenko does not rule out that the two countries will need to hold more meetings on the matter. “One of them is due in St Petersburg on 20 December. There will probably be a need for several more on the most sensitive issues,” the head of state said as he met with students and the academic staff of the Belarusian medical universities on 13 December.