Belarus: ‘Russia was, is and will always be our closest ally’ – Lukashenko in annual address
Belarus considers options to trade oil through the Baltic states
On Thursday, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko announced the possibility of redirecting the flows of trade in oil products exclusively through the Baltic countries and warned of a possible deterioration in relations with Russia due to the financial policy pursued by Moscow.
Russia continues to keep Belarus in its geopolitical orbit through energy subsidies and loans, but plans to gradually reduce the pressure on its own economy, under pressure from Western sanctions imposed after the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea..
Lukashenko also tried to dispel speculation in the Russian and Belarusian media that Moscow wants to use financial subsidies as leverage to integrate Belarus into Russia..
Minsk said it could lose $ 300 to $ 400 million a year from changes in Russian tax policy and is trying to negotiate compensation. Moscow replies that subsidizing the Belarusian economy costs billions of dollars to the Russian budget.
Moscow suspended negotiations with Minsk in December, stating that the amount of compensation for the Belarusian economy would depend on the degree of integration between Russia and Belarus..
“If the Russian leadership chooses this path of movement and the loss of the only ally in the western direction, this is their choice,” the state news agency BelTA quotes Alexander Lukashenko..
At the end of last year, the President of Belarus met with Vladimir Putin twice and agreed to set up a working group to resolve differences..
Belarus has traditionally benefited from the purchase and further re-export of Russian crude oil and some petroleum products. This has helped Alyaksandr Lukashenka to remain in power for a quarter of a century now and to manage the economy largely on the Soviet model..
On Thursday, he offered the option of purchasing oil, as well as its processing at the refinery in Novopolotsk and further export, together with the Baltic countries.
This is not the first dispute between Minsk and Moscow over oil exports. In 2010, a similar dispute prompted Belarus to purchase Venezuelan oil through the ports of Ukraine..
On Thursday, Lukashenko also said that he had not discussed with Putin the prospect of uniting Russia and Belarus..
“For many, many reasons, as you yourself understand, there is no talk of the unification of the two states,” Lukashenka said.
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