BARVIKHA, November 23 (Itar-Tass) -- President Dmitry Medvedev said Belarus was the closest country for Russia.
He said there was no other country with which Russia would have such close relations and suggested assessing the closeness of countries by the amount of economic assistance and aid.
"There is no other country with which we would have so special relations as we have with Belarus," Medvedev said in an interview with Belarusian mass media on Monday.
"If we had no Union State, the level of cooperation would be different," he said, citing anti-crisis measures as an example. "Belarus is our biggest borrower. Over the last two and a half years, more than three billion U.S. dollars have been lent. We do not lend as much to anyone else," he said.
Medvedev said so much had been lent "only because we are within the Union State and very closely integrated economies, and there are political obligations :If we talked of some other state, the aid would be more moderate".
"The economic situation in our country is not perfect either. It is worse than in Belarus in terms of industrial decline. I have seen the latest figures. Belarus will have a slight economic growth this year, we will have a decline," the president said.
He believes that "loans fill cooperation with substance".
"Belarus is only coming close to three billion in terms of loans from the IMF and European lending institutions. But we have already disbursed the money," he added.
Medvedev is confident that "this is what should be used to test and define cooperation. This is the main criterion of how we help each other".
He recalled his recent conversation with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko at the latest CIS summit in Chisinau. "I said then that our support to Belarus was in our special attitude," he said.
Medvedev also spoke of the antic-crisis fund of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC).
"That Russia agreed to create the fund means that we are not indifferent to how our relations with our closest partners develop, and we contribute 7.5 billion U.S. dollars to the fund, Kazakhstan will make a certain contribution. Other countries' input is much smaller, but they can take more," Medvedev said.
"Our comradeship and allied relations should be tested by special economic relations. When I hear our partners say that we do not help enough, I feel surprised because no one helps partners more than Russia does, and this is fully true of Belarus too," he said.
Asked what in his opinion could generate a possible economic growth in Belarus, while the Russian economy is declining, Medvedev named several factors, including the scale of the Russian economy, problems that have emerged during the crisis, and excessive export and resource-orientation of the Russian economy.
"This is why we have fallen more than we expected," he said.
"As for the situation in Belarus, I think there are several aspects to it. First of all your economy is better protected owing to diversification of production, the decisions that were timely made and certain support provided to the Belarusian economy, including from Russia," he said.
"If someone gave us such support commensurate with the scale of our economy, our fall might have been slightly smaller," the president said.