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Meeting with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko

July 18, 2019, St Petersburg

Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko held talks before the plenary session of the 6th Forum of Russian and Belarusian Regions.

Yesterday, the presidents of Russia and Belarus visited monasteries on Valaam and Konevets islands on Lake Ladoga.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, friends,

Today we can and should resume the discussions which we began with the President of Belarus during our informal meeting yesterday. On the regional track, we will hold talks with our colleagues who are responsible for interregional cooperation. All this is very important and interesting, as well as promising and useful.

We have a government commission, which will, hopefully, report today on their achievements in the further development of the Union State. This year we will mark an important anniversary in December, which is why Mr Lukashenko and I have decided to review everything that has been done within the framework of the Union State, as well as things that have not been done and the reasons behind that, and to map out acceptable ways for promoting our integration.

In this context, I would like to note again that Belarus is certainly our closest strategic partner and ally. We are working together in all spheres, including security, military development and defence, plus the economy. Our mutual trade is growing, which is good news. Russia is the largest investor in the Belarusian economy. Our total direct investment in Belarus is approaching $4 billion.

However, questions invariably pop up in the course of such challenging joint work. I hope that we will use our meeting today to move forward.

Thank you.

President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: Thank you, Mr President.

I noticed that your thoughts that you shared – and we did not coordinate our actions here – are absolutely consistent with mine: here are my notes, I wrote them this morning, and they show that we think alike.

The only thing that I can add to the analysis of the situation is that we sometimes drag on making decisions on some issues for either objective or subjective reasons. We have come to a moment when it is necessary to not just talk, but make decisions. This is what journalists, experts and average people expect from us, it is true. Therefore the moment calls for making decisions.

As for Mr President and me, we, the presidents, have walked our path, and you note this yourselves within the joint group. We have repeatedly met in Sochi, in Moscow and in other places, and have even been criticised for talking and not acting. We have decided on everything we were planning to decide on. We outlined the directions of our activities as well as concrete steps, and as Mr President said, we created an intergovernmental group. The governments are working now. It does not matter that Mr Krutoi or Mr Oreshkin [economy ministers of Belarus and Russia] head these groups – the governments are working and this means that the presidents have fulfilled their mission, played their role and made the necessary decisions that you, the experts, asked for.

What do we have now? As Mr President said, we have a programme, which is a strategic document, more or less, and today, we have a whole range of issues to deal with. The group and the governments know these issues and they have developed a programme, which is 80–90 percent agreed upon, according to them. I believe that Mr President was also told about this.

I do not want to go into more detail, as I have told Mr President. I would like to make a suggestion. I believe Mr President will support it. In December [2019] we will mark 20 years of the Union Treaty. Clearly, we should sort out all of our problems before that date. What will we talk about on the occasion? There will be nothing to say unless we settle all the outstanding problems and sign a document setting out the strategy of our future actions.

In other words, Mr President, I propose resolving everything by that date and approving our decisions within the framework of the Union State Supreme State Council, or in any other way we agree upon, including the programme on the strategy of our future actions and solutions to outstanding problems.

I would not like journalists or other professionals to criticise Belarusians or, more precisely, Lukashenko for insisting that problems be settled. These are concrete problems that are plain to see. Unless we settle them and remove them from our agenda, it would be ridiculous to discuss any strategy.

So, I suggest that we support our governments’ proposal on resolving all our problems before the 20th anniversary of our Union Treaty. It will be December 8, I believe. So, we must do it by December 8. There is plenty of time. Moreover, our governments have missed the deadlines for certain issues, which Mr President and I set for them two years ago in St Petersburg, I believe. Well, we will talk about this. Today is the right time to do so.

I am grateful to Mr President for yesterday’s tour. It was not a mere familiarisation tour. We went to the place where our roots are, the roots of our faith and the roots of all the real people. I do not think the President of Russia ever led anyone on a tour of these places, which he knows inside out. I am deeply grateful to you for taking me over these mountains, rivers, lakes and holy places, and for showing all of them to me so openheartedly.

Today we are thinking about what we can do in Belarus to continue along this path in Valaam and other monasteries, especially since we met very many Belarusians there yesterday.


July 18, 2019, St Petersburg