Lukašenka attacks Russia, questions Union State

Aliaksandr Lukašenka attacked on Sunday Russia for regularly changing the rules of its economic cooperation with Belarus, which he said calls the two countries’ Union State into question.

Photo by president.gov.by

“When you enter some grouping, you expect things to get better with every month, every year,” he told reporters at a polling station in Minsk after casting his ballot in the House of Representatives election. “And what is happening in our case? New conditions are set for us every year. As a result, we constantly lose something in economic terms. Pardon me, but why the hell does one need such a union?”

Mr. Lukašenka stressed that Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he described as his friend, was aware of Belarus’ grievances. “I can tell him that openly, even in stronger terms, and so can he,” he said. “What kind of union is that if we suffer losses and the conditions get worse with every year? This is abnormal. We demand equal conditions for economic entities, on which we agreed in the past.”

The head of state warned that he would not sign a single new integration deal with Russia if it ran counter to Belarus’ constitution and the fundamental principles of Belarusian society. “Don’t worry about that, I am no less a patriot than you are. The main principle is the sovereignty and independence of our society.”

Mr. Lukašenka indicated that no program of action for deeper integration with Russia would be signed unless Moscow removed barriers to Belarusian-made goods and resolved “fundamental issues concerning the supply of hydrocarbons.”

He noted that Belarus had an annual deficit of up to $9 billion in trade in goods with Russia. “Tell me, where can we take this $9 billion to pay Russia for the goods we buy there? We, of course, have no hydrocarbons. We need to earn this money in the Russian market. And they have put up a barrier to some of our goods. Is this the right thing to do? No,” he said.

Mr. Lukašenka added that Minsk had no intentions to start a trade war with Russia. “Speaking about economy, we make no claims and don’t ask for anything,” he said. “We demand equal conditions for economic entities, people, like we agreed once. And such a union will be a good one then. And then you will never take a dig at Russia and we will always welcome such a union.”