Lukashenko: Belarus to repay Russia $1 billion per year on old loans

Belarus will pay Russia $1 billion per year for previous loans and will not ask for “any money at all”, and proposes “honest, transparent and sincere” bilateral cooperation, said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, as cited by BelTA.

The US pays Russia “1.5% for keeping their foreign currency there” but Belarus pays 4-6%, Lukashenko explained: “This just couldn’t make us happier – paying Russia $1 billion per year. They’ve invested their money successfully.”

The president remarked that Minsk will not be asking Moscow for any more money, because Russia’s loans were repaid last year, and were not refinanced. He said that Minsk is ready to resume cooperation, but Russia wants to “hit us on the head and bring us to our knees the Byzantine way”.

“We are ready to cooperate. However, this cooperation should be fair, transparent and bona fide. We are not asking for any additional preferences, just the same terms as they offer the West,” Lukashenko explained. He also pointed out that Russia wants to sell gas to Belarus at $127 per thousand cubic meters, even though spot prices in Europe are under $100. “We see what is going on around us and we know how to count. So stop yelling that you are providing for us,” the president said.

He also pointed out that in 2011, when Russia purchased Beltransgaz, it promised to provide gas at Russia’s domestic prices for five years, but has not done so. “Why are you deceiving us? Actually, you are not deceiving us, you just think that we have forgotten it,” Lukashenko ranted.

He drew attention to the fact that Russia is selling $9 billion more resources and goods to Belarus than it is purchasing from the country. “So who is providing for whom? Experts understand it,” he said. Instead of establishing honest relations, “propaganda is trying to pit Russians against Father Lukashenko and Belarus”. “The times have gone when they would shout that Lukashenko is going to grab Monomakh’s Cap,” the head of state observed.

In 2019 Belarus owed more to Russia than any other country. As of July 1, 2019, the country’s Finance Ministry calculated that it owed $7.55 billion. The country’s debt to Russia has doubled since 2012.

Three years ago, Belarus received a $700 million loan from Russia with a term of 10 years. The Russian government instructed that the funds should be allocated to “further strengthening friendly relations” and to the repayment of previous loans. In 2014, Russia gave Belarus a $10 billion 15-year loan to cover 90% of the cost of building a nuclear power plant in the Hrodna Region, with the remaining 10% being financed by Russia’s Vnesheconombank at Belarus’s request.

In July 2018, Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Vasily Matyushevsky said that Belarus was negotiating a new $1 billion loan from Russia which would be given in 2019. According to Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, the cited amount included all of Belarus’s debts to Russia and the Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Development (EFSD).

At the end of December last year, Russia and Belarus failed to reach agreement on oil prices. On January 1, Moscow stopped sending oil (Tatneft said that it had not received extension requests), and Minsk temporarily suspended its oil product exports. Lukashenko gave orders for alternative oil sources to be sought out. The Belarusian government is currently negotiating oil deals with Kazakhstan, the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The situation with gas is more positive – in December, the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom extended its contract with Minsk to deliver gas in January and February at the old price of $127 per thousand cubic meters. At the same time, Gazprom and Gazprom Transgaz Belarus signed a contract to transport gas through Belarus until 2021. At his last meeting with Vladimir Putin, Lukashenko remarked that if the countries are integrated, Minsk will not need cheap energy resources, and so he is willing to pay up to $200 for gas from Russia.

  Lukashenko, Belarus, Russia