Yesterday a new record in duration of Belarusian-Russian talks at top level was set– Lukashenka and Medvedev talked for 8 hours. Russian mass media noted that the discussions in the Kremlin were rather harsh.
Leaving the Kremlin after the exhausting 8-hour marathon of Belarusian-Russian summit, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev came out to journalists. He called this “long working day” “a reflection of the whole comprehensiveness of Russia and Belarus’ relations”. As said by Medvedev, these long talks, confirm “both those vast perspectives and unsolved problems we have been diligently engaged in with Alyaksandr Lukashenka for the last eight hours”. Lukashenka himself expressed his opinion in a little different way, observing that for all this time “we have been discussing the existing differences and tried to make the positions of our sides closer”. Judging by the style of this phrase, the attempt was not very successful, “Vremya novostej” writes.
“Kommersant” newspaper notes that the yesterday’s session of the Supreme State Council of Russia and Belarus seemed as endless as the process of building “the union state”. Moscow and Minsk have been building it for 10 years, but the end of the task started in the last century is not yet in sight.
Talks can last for so long in two cases usually: when bosom friends meet, or when the sides couldn’t find understanding on something. The first variant is unlikely, at least because besides Dmitry Medvedev, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was at the negotiations table with Alyaksandr Lukashenka. And he had some black marks against the Belarusian leader, as two months ago Lukashenka accused Putin in hindering integration process and military cooperation of the two countries.
The statment of the Russian president didn’t shed light to the results of the yesterday’s session of the State Council. “These 10 years have passed very fast, much has been done and much not done yet,” Medvedev said. The Russian president mentioned the tone of this meeting by one more phrase: “In our discussions, sometimes very harsh ones, we are forgetting from what we had started, but I must say there is no comparison between the degree of our mutual integration now and what we had 10 years ago”. Medvedev admitted that “rather emotional exchange of opinions has taken place” between him and his Belarusian colleague.
What was discussed in first 5 hours
As “Vremya novostej” writes, the only indication that the meeting was not completely fruitless, where Medvedev’s words that “we have adopted a fundamental decision to answer positively to different appeals concerning the way in which cooperation in the oil sphere would be carried out”. Such an over-elaborate phrasing suggests that Moscow has decided to say yes to the request of Minsk to lift import dues for Russian oil imposed by Moscow in 2007.
Medvedev didn’t go into detail. It was done instead of him by an anonymous source of “Kommersant” in the Russian delegation. He explained that the matter concerns maintaining the favourable tax regime for import of Russian oil to Belarus. “The Belarusian side would like to reduce the present due. And we expressed ourselves in favour of not increasing it, but preserving it at the present level. That was our concession to them,” the source said.
However, as “Kommersant” has found out, as before Moscow is not eager to give $500 mln and 100 billion Russian rubles’ loans to Minsk.
In the statements of the both leaders yesterday there were also no hints to such problems of Russian-Belarusian relations as the issue of recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia which is still being reflected on by the Belarusian leadership. However, that was not an obstacle for Dmitry Medvedev to state surely that “I hope that in the area of foreign policy in 2010-2011, like in no other area, the degree of our integration would be the highest”.
Nevertheless, an agreement on military and technical cooperation development was signed yesterday. Behind this dry name there is an unprecedented mechanism of Moscow and Minsk mutual relations in defence sphere. “Kommersant” sources in the Russian and Belarusian delegations said unanimously: each side would convey to the other side fighting equipment and armament in the same configuration as it is used in its own military forces. There is no need explaining which of the sides would be an arms supplier, and which a consumer. It is no mere chance that after the talks Anatoly Serdyukov, Russian Defence Minister, received Order of Friendship from Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s hands.
What was discussed in rest 3 hours
After a united approach to the signed documents was agreed upon (which took 5 hours), the sides continued discussing other vital problems. As it turned out, in the conference hall hidden from strange eyes a real drama took place. One of the participants of the negotiation battles, who escaped from the hall behind the closed doors to take a breath, told “Kommersant” that the Belarusian delegation was not satisfied with what has already been achieved, and decided build on the progress. “We had to explain the same things to our colleagues from Belarus dozens of times: Minsk cannot feed on Russian subsidies forever, without offering in exchange nothing what interests us in their economy,” the interlocutor of “Kommersant” resented.
“The Belarusian officials were carrying out the discussion under the scenario written in advance. They ‘blasted’ the meaningful and businesslike talk by endless demands of loans, favourable conditions, indulgences and exceptions,” A Kremlin official complaint. “These requests were repeated for dozens of times, so the conversation had an incoherent character”.
As said by the source of “Kommersant”, amid excitement of the talks the Belarusian side started to offer completely new ideas: they offered to take care of Russian laws amendments which are long overdue as they believe. “An initiative to change our law on the Central Bank was made! It is outrageous!” the Russian negotiator fumed. “I was amazed by our President and Prime Minister who showed patience of an angel. We are ready for integration and even are ready to incur expenses for that, but we cannot patch gaps of the Belarusian budget which are caused by a specific model of their economy”.