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Russian diplomat: Belarus accepts Crimea’s reunification with Russia with understanding

February 10, 19:07 UTC+3

A Russian diplomat notes Minsk builds relations with the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol the way it does with other Russian regions

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MINSK, February 10. /TASS/. Belarus accepts Crimea’s reunification with Russia understandingly and now it is important that Minsk build relations with the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol the way it does with other Russian regions, Russian Ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov told TASS on Friday.

"I don’t understand this question," he said when asked whether Minsk can recognize Crimea’s reunification with Russia. "It’s like asking the Belarusians about recognition of Russia’s Magadan region. Belarus has brotherly relations with Russia. It recognizes Russia as a sovereign state. So, why should it recognize a Russian region?"

"Belarus takes the situation in Crimea with understanding, with cautious understanding, of course. And it is understandable," he said. "Back then it told [Ukraine - TASS]: you have missed out on it and Crimea is Russia’s de facto. It is important that Belarus, seeing that, build trade-and-economic and cultural relations with the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol exactly as it does with other Russian constituent regions."

Trade disagreements

Moscow and Minsk should not heighten tensions between the authorities over disagreements on trade issues, he went on. 

According to him, the dispute over gas prices is the issues of those organizations that signed contract on Russian gas supplies to Belarus.

"Like it or not but there is a contract. If you don’t like it - appeal against it, go to court. This would have been the best solution of the issue from the very start. Everything would have ended in court long ago and all the parties would have accepted the court's decision, whatever it is," the diplomat said.

"But we still have the idea that disputes between economic entities on key resources - oil and gas should involve higher authorities, avoiding responsibility for resolving disputes in court, as it should be, and shifting it to the superiors to the high-level, up to the heads of state," the ambassador said.

"We need to get used to the fact that everything should be solved in the legal area. This is reasonable and won’t lead to excessive tension," he said.

Belarus and Russia have been negotiating a reduction in gas prices since early 2016. Minsk insisted on lowering the price of Russian natural gas from $132 to $73 per 1,000 cubic meters and demanded that Russia switch to equal netback pricing.

Working group

Russia finds it feasible to set up a working group with Belarus in order to curb re-export of sanctioned goods, but such a decision has not been made yet, he added. 

According to the diplomat, Rosselkhoznadzor, Russian agricultural watchdog, is taking measures to prevent such activities.

"As I was informed, in recent years, cases of re-export of Ukrainian beef through re-labeling were registered at enterprises of consumer cooperation in Belarus," he said.

"We have already taken serious measures. But I think that it would be wiser if two our agencies (Rosselkhoznadzor and Belarusian sanitary and veterinary inspection - TASS) work together and suppress such acts next to Belarusian not Russian borders. That would be correct," the diplomat said.

"A lot depends on synchronous work of the two supervisory services," the diplomat noted. "There are some ideas on this matter. I even had the idea to unite them (two watchdogs), and in the framework of the Union State (of Russia and Belarus) they would blocked re-exports on the external border. A kind of a radical idea," he said.

"They could create a joint working group to curb re-export," he said adding that so far no final decision on such a group has been taken.

"They (Belarus) should understand that suppression of re-export enhances production in Russia and in Belarus. It would probably be wise to tighten up the work, including through joint activities," he said.

In late December, Rosselkhoznadzor said that Belarus re-exported no less than 15,000 tonnes of beef to Russia in 2016.

The supplies of Ukrainian agricultural produce to Russia were banned as of January 1, 2016 in the wake of deterioration of relations between the two countries and the expansion of the Russian foodstuff embargo.

Rosselkhoznadzor rebuked Belarusian companies on a number of occasions for the re-exports of European products, which fell under the Russian food embargo.

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