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MOSCOW, December 26. /ITAR-TASS World Service/. At a meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Russia and Belarus on Wednesday with the participation of the two countries’ Presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko, it was decided to extend a loan worth up to two billion U.S. dollars to Minsk. Also, agreements on cooperation in the sphere of information security and on cooperation in combating corruption were signed at the meeting.
Lukashenko promised that Minsk would not “eat away” the loan “for no special reason.” According to Russia's Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, quoted by the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper, the loan will be issued for a term of up to 10 years from the federal budget and other sources, but not the National Welfare Fund (NWF).
Minsk has taken the fifth place among Russia’s main foreign trade partners, the newspaper stresses. It has also outstripped Kiev, becoming the leader in the sphere of trade with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) member countries. Russia is the main supplier of oil and natural gas to Belarus, as well as the main investor (the accumulated capital investment has reached almost six billion U.S. dollars). More than 2,000 enterprises with Russian capital operate in Belarus. The major high-technology investment projects include the construction of a nuclear power plant, formation of the Rosbelavto holding on the basis of Kamaz and Belaz plants, joint operation of the companies EuroChem and Grodno Azot. The total volume of the union budget is 4.87 billion rubles. Some 40% of it will be spent on economic projects.
“In general, everything looks so good on the face of it, that it is surprising why bilateral talks between Putin and Lukashenko — the first event within the State Council meeting framework - dragged out for 2 hours and 45 minutes,” the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper writes, wondering “how such a scandal with the arrest in Minsk of Uralkali CEO Vladislav Baumgertner could have happened.”
“The Union State of Belarus and Russia is the most long-lived of news political entities in the former USSR space,” Kommersant writes. “It was created December 8, 1999 and has since become a ghost state, a state - illusion, the state that has the Supreme State Council, the Council of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the budget. Only the state itself it does not have.”
The Union State budget for next year is nevertheless close to five billion rubles, the newspaper stresses. According to Vladimir Putin, the money would be spent on the development of 37 joint programs.
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