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ENGLISH VERSION8 октября 2008 22:00

Lukashenko: "Our friendship with Russia isn't for sale. You can be sure."

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin advanced the Russian ruble for the Coalition State
Lukashenko was deep in thought. He had to convince Putin that Belarus is loyal to Russia, and isn't looking to the West.

Lukashenko was deep in thought. He had to convince Putin that Belarus is loyal to Russia, and isn't looking to the West.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin flew to Minsk to attend a conference of the Coalition State's Council of Ministers. But while on route to the Zaslavl residence just outside the Belarus capital, Putin decided to stop by the presidential administration to visit Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko. The offices of the Belarus administration are now equipped with high-tech detectors and electronic walkways that court visitors and employees through the entrance. The technology allows secret service employees to scan all those entering the building. Putin was exempted from the procedure. However, the officials and journalists who arrived to take part in the conference were thoroughly examined from head to toe. After meeting with Putin, Lukashenko unexpectedly made several statements, which sounded more like justifications or explanations, about some misunderstandings in the press that appeared as though Belarus was selling its friendship with Russia for links with the West. "We never barter with anyone," Lukashenko said vehemently. "We aren't selling our friendship with Russia. You can be absolutely sure." Lukashenko also said he thought "Russian and Belarusians" waiting for something. Putin refrained from commenting on Lukashenko's justifications. But he did make the following statement regarding the expectations of the Russian and Belarusian people.

"Our citizens are waiting for well structured economic development that will reflect on their well being. And we're able to provide this to them." Putin and Lukashenko discussed the expectations of their nations at the conference. In Putin's opinion, high tech projects most in demand. However, the chief sparring point in Russian-Belarusian relations is the price on gas. Russia has been increasing the price on gas for Belarus, but not yet to market level. The price for 1,000 cubic meters of gas has risen to $500 on the international market. At the moment, Belarus pays $127, and may possibly pay $190 next year. But Belarus hopes to pay no more than $140. Russia is willing to give Belarus additional credit to support their economy in light of the increased costs. Last year, Russia loaned Belarus $1.5 billion. Putin offered Belarus to pay for the gas in rubles from now on. "Why are the payments being made in U.S. dollars?" Putin asked. "We're witnessing the problems the U.S. economy and currency system is encountering." In terms of a single currency for Russia and Belarus, Putin said the issue is on hold, but still open. The major intrigue in Russian-Belarus relations is installing Russia's anti-missile shield in Belarus to counterbalance the U.S. anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. However, the issue wasn't on the conference agenda. Highly positioned Belarus officials told KP that agreements will be signed in the near future at the Coalition State's Supreme Council in Moscow. They also said Belarus approves of Russia reacting harshly to U.S. intentions to surround the coalition with their shield: "Russia isn't the country it was one year ago. And we’re happy."

Лукашенко - Путину: «Мы дружбой с русскими не торгуем, можете быть уверены»

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