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Are Russia’s relations with Belarus on the skids? Less than a third of Russians think so

The share of respondents, who describe Russian-Belarusian ties as "normal and calm" was 10 percentage points lower than in January 2019, according to the poll

MOSCOW, September 9. /TASS/. Every third Russian thinks that relations between Russia and its neighbor Belarus are getting worse. This figure is 10 percentage points greater than in 2019, according to a survey carried out by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center published on Wednesday.

"Just as in January 2019, half of Russians believe that the relations between the countries remain the same (49%). Some 32% of Russians (10 percentage points higher than in January 2019) see a trend towards deterioration, and another 8% say there is an improvement (6 percentage points less than at the start of 2019)," the survey revealed.

The share of respondents (20%), who describe Russian-Belarusian ties as "normal and calm" was 10 percentage points lower than in January 2019 (30%). Another 23% called them "friendly" and one in five Russians (20%) said that both nations had good neighborly relations. Meanwhile, 16% of Russians stated that the relationship between the two states was "chilly" and roughly 11% labelled them as "tense."

More than half of Russians (57%) know about the Union State of Belarus and Russia, or about 8 percentage points more than in early last year. However, around 43% of Russians said they heard about the Union State for the first time.

Nearly half of the Russian public (43%) believes that the Union State is not needed and Russia should just maintain good neighborly relations with Belarus. One in five respondents believed that the two countries need to be united on an equal basis (22%) or Belarus should join Russia as one or several Russian federal subjects (17%).

The poll was carried out by VTsIOM-Sputnik on August 20, 2020 among 1,600 Russians. The maximum margin of error was no greater than 2.5% with a probability of 95%.

The Treaty on creating the Union State of Russia and Belarus was signed on December 8, 1999 in Moscow by then Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Alexander Lukashenko, the incumbent Belarusian head of state. The deal entered into force on January 26, 2000 and has no term limit. According to the document, the Union State’s creation involves the establishment of a single economic space, a single currency, uniting energy systems, coordinating trade and customs and a tariff policy, as well as creating a single legal system. The treaty stresses that these goals should be achieved step-by-step given the priority of solving economic and social tasks.

By December 2019, the two governments had agreed on most roadmaps introduced by the working group, but still failed to come to terms on some of them. On December 7, 2019, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko held talks in Sochi devoted to these integration issues. The sides failed to agree on challenging issues.

On June 4, 2020 Belarusian Ambassador to Russia Vladimir Semashko announced that only 28 out of 31 roadmaps on creating single and unified markets of the Union State had been agreed on. The sides still have to iron out some issues related to the oil and gas sector.