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Putin, Lukashenko to discuss cooperation, take part in Forum of Regions

September 18, 2015, 1:41 UTC+3 SOCHI

In general, Russia is the main trade partner of Belarus. It accounts for almost half of Belarus’ trade exchanges. The bilateral trade volume reached $16 billion in the first half of the year

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© Viktor Drachev/TASS

SOCHI, September 18. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold talks on Friday with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko. In addition, the two leaders will take part in the second Forum of Regions of Russia and Belarus, which opened in Russia’s Black Sea resort city of Sochi on Thursday, Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said.

"A plenary session of the forum will be held in Sochi before which Presidents Putin and Lukashenko will hold a separate bilateral meeting," he said. "After the forum Putin and Lukashenko will visit the Russian-Belarusian Industrial Exhibition," Peskov said.

Answering journalists’ questions, Peskov said that Putin had no plans to meet Pskov region governor Andrei Turchak who takes part in the forum.

Andrei Turchak has come into spotlight in connection with the 2010 attack on journalist Oleg Kashin. Kashin and Turchak had had a quarrel in the Internet several months before the attack. The journalist insulted the governor and refused to apologize. Kashin wrote in his blog early in September that two people had been detained in connection with the attack. They are security guards at the Leninents holdings (St. Petersburg) owned by Turchak’s family. One of them, Alexander Gorbunov, had organized the attack according to Kashin. But Gorbunov was under arrest on charges of illegal storage of weapons at the time of the attack. Investigators consider him to be a witness rather than a perpetrator.

"No, no separate meetings have been planned. At least, we do not have them on schedule," Peskov said adding that the day’s agenda would be busy.

Cooperation issues on agenda

Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov previously said, "The leaders of Russia and Belarus are planned to discuss at the meeting current issues of bilateral cooperation, the implementation of decisions taken at the meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Russia-Belarus Union State on March 3, 2015, prospects for deepening integrational cooperation within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union." "This contact will be important from the viewpoint of the presidential election in Belarus to be held on October 11," Ushakov said.

Speaking of the forum, the presidential aide said that its theme is "The Union State’s Industrial Policy: Common Approaches and Regional Aspects." During the event it is planned to sign several documents on cooperation between the regions of Russia and Belarus, he said. The heads of the Russian Federation Council and State Duma, the Republic Council and House of Representatives of Belarus, the Union State Standing Committee, heads of key ministries and agencies, regional executive and legislative heads from both countries, and representatives from big business and public and scientific organisations will attend the forum. The last forum took place in June 2014 in Minsk. Its theme was "Industrial policy of the Union State: common approaches and regional dimensions."

Russia - major trade partner of Belarus

Currently, more than 80 subjects of the Russian Federation have trade and economic relations with Belarus. Sis representative offices of Russian regions are accredited in Minsk. Offices of the Belarusian embassy work in 11 regions of Russia.

In general, Russia is the main trade partner of Belarus. It accounts for almost half of Belarus’ trade exchanges. The bilateral trade volume reached $16 billion in the first half of the year.

Energy cooperation, natural gas, in particular, is the focus of strategic cooperation between Russia and Belarus. Russia’s natural gas monopoly Gazprom is the owner of Belarus’ 575-kilometre section of the Yamal - Europe gas pipeline. Under the bilateral agreement, Russia is to supply to Belarus 21 billion cubic metres of gas this year. Until 2020, Gazprom plans to invest $2 - 2.5 billion in the development of the gas transportation system of Belarus and $1.1 billion in boosting the capacity of the country’s underground gas storage facilities. In addition, the sides are developing cooperation in the nuclear industry. For example, Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom is building the first Belarusian nuclear power plant.

Cooperation in Space

The two countries have prospective joint plans in such high-technology spheres as space. They continue the work on the development of the two countries’ single navigation space based on the Russian GLONASS global navigation satellite system. The launch in July 2012 of the BelKA Belarusian Earth remote sensing satellite with Russian assistance was an important element of this work.

Some 40 economic, defence, social programmes and projects are implemented within the framework of the Union State of Russia and Belarus. They are funded comes from the Union budget. Its volume in 2015 reached 4.87 billion roubles.

The initiative to create the Forum of Regions of Russia and Belarus was put forward by speaker of the Russian Federation Council upper house of parliament Valentina Matviyenko. Its first meeting was held in Minsk on June 5-6, 2014. It was attended by the leaders of 19 Russian regions, the head of Minsk and leaders of six Belarusian regions.

As for talks between Putin and Lukashenko, this year alone the two leaders have met 6 times and have repeatedly communicated on the phone.

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