Russian President Vladimir Putin said that subsidizing energy prices for Belarus until all issues related to the Union State are resolved would be a big mistake.
“I believe that the decision to create the Union State was right. The Russian and Belarusian people, like the Ukrainian and Russian, are almost one people in the ethnic sense, historical perspective, spiritual principles. Therefore, I am very happy with the fact that we are having such a rapprochement with Belarus,” Putin said at the end-of-year conference in Moscow on 19 December.
The Russian president also noted that most of the issues regarding the of the Union State were not implemented, “90% of them has not been done”. As for oil and gas, according to the Russian leader, they are sold to Belarus duty-free.
“Belarus has the lowest price available for our foreign partners. Let me remind you that it stands at $128 per 1,000 cubic meters. We sell [gas] to Europe for $200. The profitability from sales to Europe and Belarus for Gazprom is four times different!”
Recall that Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has repeatedly stated that the price of Russian gas for Belarus should be the same as for Smolensk. But, as Putin noted, this would mean that Russia had to subsidize “another country as well as the Smolensk region which is the most subsidized by its own.”
He was quick to add that this can be done but would require “general laws, common supranational control and issuing bodies, general rules in antitrust policy”. Today, these issues have not been resolved.
“Therefore, getting ahead of ourselves and starting to subsidize for Belarus – we are not ready to do it now. It would be a mistake on our part to subsidize Belarus when the construction of Union State remains undecided.”
As for the losses of Belarus from Russia’s tax manoeuvre, Putin stated: “This is our domestic policy, it has nothing to do with Belarus. It is about a number of circumstances that the government of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Energy consider the best for us.”
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Nevertheless, Putin noted that they understand the arising problems Belarus will have to encounter, thus, the sides are now engaged in dialogue. “I remind you that we support our Belarusian friends through many channels. We have already loaned around 7 billion dollars. And we will continue to do this,” he assured.
The next meeting between Lukashenko and Putin is scheduled for 20 December in St. Petersburg. “It may still be necessary to meet after the 20th of December in order to dot the I’s on the most crucial issues of the functioning of the two states and, most importantly, our economies,” Lukashenko said on 10 December.