The Big Conversation with the President was event number 1 last week. And one of the main topics of conversation was the difficult relations between Belarus and Russia. Not between the peoples of the two countries, stressed the President, but between the political elites and economic barons ("barons" mainly on the Russian side).
Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
While I am President, not a single stone will be thrown at Russian people, Russians. You should know this clearly. We are one nation, we came from one cradle. The economy has pushed me to the fact that it is not necessary to tear these bonds. But you must also understand that there are a lot of various forces in Russia. Putin is my colleague and friend. We're really good friends, even though we quarrel more than any other presidents; still, we are so close, even can swear at each other - it is acute, it is not for the first time.
Russia in fact often grabbed the gas pipe when it did not like our behavior. This is a habit. Though after all these conflicts, not in public, I was always told: 'Yes, we overdid it.' Why repeat this now? Why taking us by the throat? It is clear that we can do without Russian oil.
Now, everyone is fighting for oil markets, even before the OPEC agreement on lowering production. There is enough oil. We will process it in Mozyr (this is a more reformed factory) and sell oil products. We will still find a way out. Russia, unfortunately, does not understand that. They think we are tied to them anyway.
If independence is on one side and Russian, Iranian, Azerbaijani and American oil on the other, it is not comparable. Honesty, the historical past is more expensive than oil.
We have inter-state agreements. We have not violated a single one. We agreed with Russia that they deliver 24 million tons of oil a year. They cut it to 18, then to 16 and now they allege they would ship only 12 million. Have we signed papers? Here's your signature.
Oil prices have dropped and under a special formula natural gas now costs $83. They realized it's not profitable for them to sell to us at this price. They say we must pay $132. Why? Because it is the lowest price, they say.
But I said no, it's not logic, we have an agreement, we have experience, we have life. Moreover, our allied relationships on oil, gas are the basis of the Eurasian Union, though back then we had higher prices. But this is an arrangement, and it must be performed. Moreover, oil has fallen, gas has fallen, but our incomes from the real sector of the economy have also fallen as well as incomes from food, tractors and cars we sell to Russia. Everything fell. We do not need to go that route.
We went to court in accordance with our agreements. There will be a trial. But is it normal? Is it fine when the two closest republics go to court?
As for food, I'll just say the main thing. All sorts of Dankverts and so on... Mr Shunevich we should institute criminal proceedings on Dankvert, as we once did against Kerimov and Baumgertner - for damage to the state. Initiate a criminal case and we'll get him. When he is in our remand prison, he will give aware of what he is doing. All these Dankverts are biased people. Everyone has huge estates. They are themselves producers of a particular product. They, of course, cannot compete with the Belarusian products in terms of the quality and price. Now you understand why these barriers appeared. Their diary market has 7 million tons of free niches, they purchase this amount. We deliver a little more than 4 million. 3 tons are still free. So why blocking Belarusian goods? We need to sell it to pay you for oil and gas, I always tell them about it. We are not cashing in on this. Go milk all these cows and you will understand how hard it is to earn this money. Make cheese, butter and sell. It's not easy.
The economy of Belarus is the finishing production of the Soviet Union. The entire economy. Part of the economy of Ukraine worked in the same way. Some also in the Baltic States. But our economy was entirely aimed at producing finished goods. The most high-tech enterprises and the construction industry were exemplary. We created the final product. We consume Soviet energy sources from Russia, Kazakhstan, from other countries. Tractors, cars, buses. Huge petrochemical industry. BelAZ heavy trucks. We did not use them in Belarus at all.
Our companies are cooperating with Russian, which employ more than 10 million people. So whose is the economy of Belarus? It is Russian among other things. I often say to Putin: if our economy shuts down, your economy will get 10 million problems. 60% of Russian components are in BelAZ, MTZ also has more than 60%.
Photo: Official Internet portal of the President of the Republic of Belarus