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Highlights of Lukashenko's meeting with Putin in St Petersburg

ST PETERSBURG ( BelTA) – Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko and President of Russia Vladimir Putin met in St Petersburg on 25 June. It is worth noting that the negotiations were timed to the 30th anniversary since Belarus-Russia diplomatic relations were established, BelTA has learned.

The meeting covered a lot of topics starting with logistics and economic cooperation and ending with responses to threats to military security and interaction within the framework of international organizations. Matters concerning the construction of the Union State of Belarus and Russia, progress in reaching earmarked goals also remain on the presidents' radar.

“It is not a routine day, this is why you and I had agreed to meet. And our volume of interaction requires us to constantly compare notes, just what we are doing,” Vladimir Putin said to explain the need for a meeting with Aleksandr Lukashenko.

It was noted that Belarus-Russia trade rose by more than a third in 2021 to over $38 billion. Growth continued in January-April 2022, with the growth rate hitting 110 %, the Belarus president specified.

Vladimir Putin said: “So we are on the right track, from the look of it. Russia invested $4 billion in economy in previous years, it is our direct investments. Belarusian enterprises have made investments, too. We have good big joint projects.”

Sales of fertilizers on the world market

In particular, Vladimir Putin informed his Belarusian counterpart about progress and results of a recent discussion at a BRICS forum: “Many of the speakers expressed concerns due to disrupted deliveries of food and fertilizers, rising food prices on world markets. Since Belarus and Russia are major suppliers on the international market, I would like to talk to you to discuss the satisfaction of the world market's demand and demand of our constant clients.”

It is universally acknowledged that Belarus and Russia occupy a significant share of the world market. Their share reaches 25% in some kinds of fertilizers. “It is a very significant volume on world markets. Lower use of fertilizers certainly worsens prospects of next year's harvest. It is all very sad,” Vladimir Putin remarked. “You and I agreed we would do everything we could in order to satisfy the demand of our consumers and our clients.”

In his words, the Russian side keeps in touch with the relevant agencies of the United Nations Organization in matters concerning food security. “I'd like to also inform you how this work progresses,” the Russian president said.

“But we have no problems with sales of either grain or fertilizers on the market. There is no need to blame us for it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

Vladimir Putin went on saying: “It is true. It is just what I wanted to talk about. Many partners of ours would like us to increase deliveries. We just have to discuss details relating to logistics. Russia sold over 40 million tonnes of cereals on world markets last year. During this agricultural year, before the next summer we will probably be able to export over 50 million tonnes. I know that Belarus is increasing production. Under your leadership Belarusian agriculture develops very confidently, successfully. As for fertilizers, we have to join efforts in order to help our traditional partners get what they need.”

Logistics and construction of a Belarusian port

Aleksandr Lukashenko was made familiar with progress of construction of the Belarusian port in Bronka in the first half of the day on 25 June. He raised the matter during the meeting with the Russian leader, too: “I've been to Bronka where we intend to build the Belarusian port. Thank you for support. You've approved that construction project. I looked around. I was very pleased to see what Kronshtadt is. To encounter it face to face. The dam which construction was completed with your huge assistance. And I wanted to see other places. I wanted to see what St Petersburg is from water. It was very important for me. And useful from the point of construction of port facilities.”

The president added: “We are satisfied with the location you have earmarked and supported. A good place. We have already started loading small amounts of mineral fertilizers over there. I think it will be the most powerful port over there. Its capacity may not even be enough for us. But as we've agreed, we will wait and see whether we need to expand it.”

Import substitution and realization of 15 major projects

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that during the meeting with Vladimir Putin he intended to discuss matters of economy among other things. “Import substitution is our traditional topic. We've suggested 15 major projects. The Russian side has approved them. You've supported us with regard to the joint funding of these projects. If everything goes the way we have planned, we will start making import substitutes soon,” he said.

“I mean the companies from unfriendly countries that used to supply products to us, to Russia and Belarus… We will be able to make our own products during this year and the next one,” the head of state added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also remarked he would like to discuss a number of minor issues in the area of economy with Vladimir Putin.

In turn, the Russian president said he had talked to top government officials earlier that day to discuss the allocation of the credit resources the sides had previously agreed on. The resources are supposed to enable financial opportunities for Belarusian enterprises to start making import substitutes. “Not only for the sake of manufacturing import substitutes but for creating their own R&D products in order to reach beyond the level of what Belarus and Russia need,” Vladimir Putin clarified.

In his words, the Russian government agrees that some of these resources may be and should be used by Belarusian enterprises in order to be able to make products for third-country markets, too. “In the end Russia will be interested in it considering the level of our manufacturing cooperation,” Vladimir Putin is convinced.

Defense and retaliation in kind to actions of the West

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that the relevant matters are of critical importance for Belarus and Russia considering what is going on in the West.

The Belarus president said: “We are very concerned about training flights of USA and NATO aircraft, which are training to carry nuclear warheads. It is very stress-inducing for us. This is why I ask you to consider a tit-for-tat response to these things. Without overdoing it. They are training to carry nuclear warheads. Please, help us at least adjust the aircraft we have for carrying nuclear payloads. I am not saying that we or you will transport nuclear ammunition over there tomorrow. But we cannot joke about it. We remember 1941 when they were lulling us into a false sense of security. And then we turned out to be unprepared for it. This is why it is a very serious situation for us. It is not the first time I've raised this issue with you. I know you've considered it in the Defense Ministry. I would like to hear how events are going to unfold here.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko added: “I am not trying to hide things, we have to be ready for everything even for the employment of the most serious weapons in order to protect our Fatherland from Brest to Vladivostok. It is our direct duty.”

As for training flights of aviation of the USA and partners in NATO, Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked: “If they are training, they must be thinking about something. Otherwise, why would they train?”

“We should seriously discuss the set of matters concerning defense and security so that our people – Russians and Belarusians – would understand that they are under serious protection,” the Belarusian leader concluded.

In turn, speaking about security matters, Vladimir Putin pointed out that Americans keep 200 units of tactical nuclear ammunition in Europe. Those are primarily nuclear bombs. The nuclear ammunition is stored in six European countries, which are NATO members. “As many as 257 aircraft have been prepared for employing the nuclear ammunition. Not only American aircraft but also aircraft of the countries I've mentioned,” Vladimir Putin explained.

“Is there no base like that in Russia?” Aleksandr Lukashenko wondered.

“There are none in Russia,” Vladimir Putin responded.

Vladimir Putin also responded to Aleksandr Lukashenko's proposal for a military tit for tat in response to USA actions: “We could. But you and I probably don't have to respond, there is no need for that. But I fully agree with you that we simply have to take care of our security, the defense of the Union State of Belarus and Russia, and probably defense of other Collective Security Treaty Organization states.”

The Russian president continued: “This is why I suggest the following. The Belarusian army has quite a large number of Su-25 aircraft. They could be upgraded but, truth be told, the modernization has to happen at Russian aircraft factories (you and I will agree how it will be done) and the pilots have to undergo the relevant training. That's firstly.”

“And secondly. As you and I have agreed, you've raised the issue, our decision has been made: we will hand over a number of tactical missile systems Iskander-M to Belarus within the next few months. They can fire ballistic and cruise missiles with conventional and nuclear warheads,” Vladimir Putin added. He suggested instructing the defense ministers and the chiefs of the general staffs of Belarus and Russia to work out all the relevant details.

“Yes. I absolutely agree,” Aleksandr Lukashenko responded.

Disgusting policy of the leadership of Poland and Lithuania

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “We are very stressed by the situation and the policy our neighbors pursue. Broadly speaking, you know it. I am talking about the leadership of Poland and the leadership of Lithuania. A policy in favor of confrontation. And you are getting your fair share from them, too. There have been mercenaries primarily from Poland in Ukraine recently. I don't understand why they want a confrontation. It is clear they are being pushed to it but the policy is disgusting. Aggressive behavior.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted Lithuania acts in a similar manner. “The flow of information regarding their intention to stop transit from Russia to Kaliningrad via Belarus, to isolate Kaliningrad is increasing. Listen, it is tantamount to the declaration of some war. Such actions are intolerable in modern conditions,” he said.

Belarus' desire to improve its status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

During the meeting Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned Belarus would like to improve its status within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “I'd like to talk to you about the Shanghai Cooperation Organization where we are observers. We may consult, you may back the upgrade of our status. A lot of time has passed. I think we will come in handy over there.”

The Forum of Regions of Belarus and Russia in Grodno

The meeting also touched upon the forthcoming Forum of Regions of Belarus and Russia, which is supposed to take place in Grodno. Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “We will discuss the organization of the Forum of Regions. I think we will participate in it via videoconference as usual. We will make an address. This forum is organized by parliamentarians – the upper chambers of the Belarusian parliament and the Russian one. They organize things well and will organize a very good forum in Grodno.”