Belarus - President Alexander Lukashenko meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

On 22 June, President Alexander Lukashenko held a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergei Lavrov.

The Belarusian Leader said, "I am very glad you have come here today, although as regrettable as it is, at such a critical moment in time. I am very sorry that the moment has become really critical on this sad day (22 June) when we, figuratively speaking, should be standing together with our arms round each other in an embrace and recall the past. But alas:Yesterday in my conversation with Nikolai Platonovich Patrushev (the Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation) I said that if the relations between all our agencies had been as good as the relations between the foreign ministries and the defence ministries, we - Belarus and Russia - would have no problems at all.

"I am very much satisfied with the level of present-day relations between our states at the line of Martynov-Lavrov (the ministers of foreign affairs of Belarus and Russia), and I am very grateful to you for this as well as for your personal assistance to us in the international arena. We know it very well and appreciate your position very much. We will not leave it unanswered. What you should know is this: whatever happens in our economy or commerce, we will be holding sacred and will always cherish the positive things that we have today in the relations between our states.

"I would not like you to take what I am going to say as a rebuke, but I want to inform you about the conflict that is unfortunately growing into a gas war between Gazprom and Belarus.

"They say that this dispute is purely a dispute between economic entities, but I do not understand how a dispute between economic entities can rise to the level of the country's top officials. This is no longer a dispute between economic entities. When we are humiliated by references either to cutlets or sausage, butter or pancakes, we take it as an insult to the Belarusian people. It does not behove the president of our neighbouring, ally state with which we have friendly relations to behave this way. The premier is echoing him as well.

"Do you know what hurt Belarusians the most? It was the statement that overstepping Belarus is nothing, but what is really important is to make sure that customers in Europe do not suffer. We have never expected such cynicism from the Russian leadership.

"What makes me so indignant? That debt that Gazprom is trumpeting about right now, USD 192 million (we believe it is USD 187 million), was accumulated in January-April. All this time we were trying to reach an agreement with the Russian government, because Gazprom gave us clear directions whom to address on this matter, saying 'We will leave last year's price for you if we are instructed to do so'.

"We have just started to recover from the world crisis, and it is not an easy time for us, but still little by little we have finally started to sell our unsold stockpiles of ready-made products, the trade with Russia has picked up (we have increased trade by 51 per cent over this period in comparison with the same period last year). It is not an easy time for us, and we would like Russia to support the Belarusian economy now by not increasing the gas price. We are not asking you to reduce it as you did for Ukraine (a 30 per cent reduction), you have also promised Hungary to reduce it or have already done it. There is no need to reduce it for us. But give us this year, let us have last year's prices so that we could rebuild our economy. You know very well that our economy is a replica of your economy; it is a final-stage production shop for Russia. Today our companies receive parts and units and raw materials for the final-stage production from your companies (nearly 15 million people in Russia are employed in this sector). So Belarus is a part of the economy of Russia. Therefore you cannot say that Belarus is a different country, a different economy, and that 'we know nothing'."


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