Lukashenko Taunts Russia Over Military Bases

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko speaking at a news conference in Minsk on April 25.

MINSK - Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Sunday berated Russia for not paying for its military bases in his country and warned that he could snub the summit of a Moscow-dominated security pact next month over Kyrgyzstan.

"I want to congratulate my Ukrainian colleagues on this victory - they have saved a few billion dollars by signing this deal," Lukashenko told reporters.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, bargaining with Moscow for cheaper gas, agreed last week to extend the lease of the Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea by 25 years beyond 2017, a move that the opposition sees as Ukraine selling its sovereignty.

"If someone has forgotten, Russia has two military bases on Belarussian land," Lukashenko said. "And Russia pays us zero rubles, zero kopeks and zero dollars for these bases.

"Besides Belarus, Russia has no one on its western flank."

He said one of the bases was part of Russia's national ballistic missile early warning system, while the other provided communications with Russian submarines in the Atlantic.

Moscow says it does not pay Minsk for the bases because Belarus gets subsidized Russian oil and gas, while Belarus says the lack of payment is because of a close military and political partnership between them.

Lukashenko also threatened to skip an informal summit of the Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization, set for May 8 in Moscow, unless Kyrgyzstan's "coup d'etat" is included in the agenda.

Both Belarus and Kyrgyzstan are CSTO members, along with Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

"What sort of organization is this, if there is bloodshed in one of our member states and an anti-constitutional coup d'etat takes place, and this body keeps silent?" Lukashenko said. "At this stage, there is no agenda. If nothing is changed, I have nothing to do there."


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