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Vladimir Putin went on his first foreign visit to Belarus as the new Russian president

June 01, 2012, 14:27 UTC+3
High on the agenda of the negotiations were bilateral cooperation in the Belarus-Russia Union State
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MOSCOW, June 1 (Itar-Tass World Service)  

Vladimir Putin went on his first foreign visit as the new Russian president in Minsk on Thursday. Late in the evening on Thursday he met with the Belarusian president. High on the agenda of the negotiations were bilateral cooperation in the Belarus-Russia Union State and close cooperation in the Common Economic Space.

Russia and Belarus will mark 20 years of bilateral diplomatic relations this year, the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily reported. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his visiting Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin also predicted the years of future cooperation to be “quite good.”

Meanwhile, Russia does not cease to recall that the country gives a massive economic assistance to its neighbour permanently, the Russian government-controlled newspaper reported. For instance, in the first quarter of 2012 Belarus was granted a major gas discount and pay 160 dollars for 1,000 cubic metres of gas instead of the average European gas price of 400 dollars. The Kremlin estimated that Minsk saves about two billion dollars on this.

Russia will allocate another ten billion dollars to build a nuclear power plant with Russian reactors in the Ostrovets district of the Grodno Region. Among major joint projects high on the bilateral agenda is the launch of a major holding RosBelavto by Russia’s KAMAZ and Belarusian MAZ.

Russia is also interested in a probable privatization of several assets, which belong to the Belarusian state authorities, the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily reported. Quite frequently such issues become the subject of debates at the highest level, because the interests of Russian companies confront excessive requests of the Belarusian leadership. For instance, in the previous year the mobile communication operator MTS refused from the participation in an auction for the right to acquire 51% of stock in Mobile TeleSystems. Minsk wanted to buy its share in the joint venture for no less than one billion dollars.

Russian investors were interested in Belaruskaliy, which accounts for 16% of the world market of potassium fertilizers. Minsk does not oppose a deal as always, but its terms of over 30 billion dollars scare Russian business.

Russian main argument is the privatization of Belarusian state assets for the interests of not only Russian business, but also the Belarusian people. Last June the Belarusian leadership attained a credit of three billion dollars in the EurAsEC anti-crisis fund in 2011-2013. But Minsk faced the conditions, which include structural reforms in the economy and a tougher budgetary and monetary policy. The privatization of the state assets was also envisaged in the terms of the credit.

The Belarusian authorities will seek to get some concrete advantages for the country from Putin’s visit, the Novye Izvestia cited Belarusian officials as saying. High on the bilateral agenda is another tranche of a credit to Minsk within the EurAsEC anti-crisis fund, Russian Presidential Aide Yuri Ushakov said. Belarus has already received the financial aid from the fund twice. Now Minsk waits for another tranche of 440 million dollars. Meanwhile, high on the bilateral agenda is the construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus and the launch of the Rosbelavto concern by Russia’s KAMAZ and Belarusian MAZ. These joint projects drag out for some time, as Minsk is dissatisfied with the allocations for the projects.

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