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Kremlin will require Lukashenka to pay

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Kremlin will require Lukashenka to pay

The last meeting of governmental delegations of Russia and Belarus was rare effective. Minsk received a loan of USD 1.5 billion yesterday. Earlier Russia’s president instructed to examine an application for another credit of USD 2 billion for the next year. Gas price for Belarus increases only by a little for the first quarter of the year. But, as the newspaper “Vedomosti” writes today, the relation between Putin and Lukashenka hasn’t become warmer. What is meant here is continuing of the new policy towards Belarus. The Kremlin has been demonstrating since end of 2006 that it is not going to give Lukashenka any gifts as it was before.

From the first glance Moscow may seem to return to its old policy towards its key CIS ally, the newspaper notes. Since mid 1990ies Minsk has been receiving substantial economic advantages – cheap energy in exchange for guarantees of loyalty and further military cooperation (Russia needs objects of air defence deployed in Belarus). The economy of Belarus grew by average 10 per cent in 2004-2006. These results were reached due to the opportunity to buy oil from Russia at inner prices of Russian market and sell oil products to the West at world market prices.

These times will never come back. Rates of GDP growth have reduced to 8.2 per cent for the period from January to November. Russia put back the loan it granted yesterday – Minsk asked for it yet in February 2007 in order to set off losses of Belarusian economy after gas prices had grown two times more in January 2007 (from USD 46.7 to USD 100 per 1.000 cu m). Even the present gas price for our country is a small concession indeed. The average annual cost will amount to USD 125 per 1.000 cu m, according to Ivan Matyorov, deputy minister of industry and energy of Russia. Moscow agreed to sign the contracts only in return for new guarantees that Gazprom can increase its share in Beltransgaz to 50 per cent (Gazprom has bought 12.5 per cent stake for USD 625 million yet).

So, not warming of the relation, but continuing of the new policy towards Belarus is meant, the newspaper “Vedomosti” writes. The Kremlin has been demonstrating since the end of 2006, that it is not going to give Lukashenka any gifts as it was before. Russia has imposed duty of USD 180.7 per ton on export of oil to Belarus and therefore cut down income of Belarusian oil processing plants since early 2007. They retained all currency gain form oil products export to the West violating the agreement of 1995, according to which 85 per cent of the gain should have been returned to Russia. As the result Moscow lost USD 3-4 billion annually.

Alyaksandr Lukashenka blamed Russia of intention to “privatise the whole Belarus”, and threatened to increase lease price of Russian objects of air defence and try to find new suppliers of cheap energy. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and his Irani colleague Mahmoud Ahmadinejad signed contracts on supply of Belarusian industrial products, but didn’t show their readiness to grant Minsk loans on favourable conditions or subsidise Lukashenka’s regime by energy delivering on favourable prices.

As the Russian edition thinks, “in this situation Lukashenka will have to bear with the fact that partial privatisation of Belarusian assets in return for economic support of Moscow is inevitable, and public invectives addressing to the Kremlin are simply harmful for him.”

Note of www.charter97.org. But the Belarusian authorities have a variant that doesn’t threat losing the independence or state property, as the Russian one, but which is not mentioned by Russian “Vedomsti.” It is cooperation with Europe. But the Belarusian authorities need to make steps forward the democratic reforms for that.

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