At present, the Belarusian leader needs Russian financial assistance more than ever because, according to political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin, Belarus is at the bottom. “After sanctions, the economy will sink to the bottom.”
On Friday, ahead of talks with Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi, Vladimir Putin noted that trade and economic relations between the two countries are developing dynamically.
“In the first quarter of this year, when Russia remains a major trade and economic partner for Belarus, we see a significant increase in trade turnover of 18.4%. This is a good trend that should be maintained as a result of the active work of the government. And now the government [რუსეთის] The commander is in Minsk “, – said Vladimir Putin in his welcoming speech before the start of the talks.
The Russian president called the international situation surrounding the landing of Rainer’s plane at the Minsk airport an “eruption of emotions.”
For his part, however, Alexander Lukashenko showed Vladimir Putin a folder full of documents and promised to provide information at a private meeting on how they were trying to destabilize the situation, as they did last August with “Western friends.”
How much valuable information he brought to Vladimir Putin and what Alexander Lukashenko will bring in exchange for Belarus will be revealed in the near future.
Analysts say Lukashenko, who has been completely isolated politically and economically by the collective West, needs air support from Russia to stabilize the economic situation and keep the Belarusian ruble afloat.
The end of “bifocal relations” with Russia
According to the Kommersant newspaper, this is the third Putin-Lukashenka meeting this year, at which Lukashenka will try to reduce the price of Russian energy, which is important for the stability of the Belarusian economy.
Today, Minsk buys 1,000 cubic meters of Russian gas for $ 128 and wants to reduce that number to $ 100 from January 1, 2022, two years before the planned unification of customs and tax systems.
Moscow wants the order to be different – first economic integration and unification of customs and fiscal policy.
In recent years, Vladimir Putin has been pressuring Lukashenko to deepen the two countries’ economic integration under a 20-year-old agreement to establish a state.
Alexander Lukashenko opposed the pressure, but unprecedented rallies in the streets of Minsk and other Belarusian cities following the August 9 presidential election weakened the Belarusian leader’s position in negotiations with Moscow.
“Lukashenko should finally make fun of Putin, because the history of bifocal relations is over for him, when Lukashenka threatened Europe one by one by joining Russia and Russian missiles would appear in Brest, and Moscow by threatening to sever ties with the West. “Synonym of the ‘revolution of dignity’ – ed.) In the Ukrainian style, but at the expense of privatization and liberalization, a quiet drift towards European values.” – Dmitry Oreshkin, a political scientist, told Nastoyashchee Vremya, a joint Russian-language TV channel of Radio Liberty and VOA.
According to official sources in Minsk and Moscow, Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenka will discuss the Sochi meeting, as well as the May 23 incident, which the United States and the European Union have called a disgusting act of “air piracy.”
On May 23, Lukashenko’s regime forced an Irish Ryanair plane to land in Minsk. The reason was the presence of an explosive device on board. The Athens-Vilnius flight was flown to Minsk Airport by a fighter jet. As soon as they landed, Belarusian law enforcement officers arrested Raman Pratasevich, an opposition journalist on board, and his friend, Sofia Sapega.
On May 25, a Minsk court sentenced Sofia Sapega to two months in prison. He is suspected of committing a crime under several articles of the Criminal Code of Belarus.
According to a video released by the Belarusian pro-government telegram channel, a video recorded in the Belarusian Security Isolator says that Pega was the editor of the opposition Telegram channel “Belarus Black Book”. The channel often reported on Belarusian security personnel who helped Alexander Lukashenko retain power in the disputed August elections.
The Russian Foreign Ministry responded to the arrest of the Russian citizen.
“We are doing everything to protect the rights of Russian citizens”, – said on May 27, the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova.
Why can’t Putin “rise” to Lukashenka?
Despite these and other problems that Lukashenko’s ambivalent actions should pose to the Kremlin, analysts believe that, most likely, the Russian government will not refuse financial assistance to the Belarusian leader.
“Under the current blockade, Belarus will, of course, need additional funds. In my opinion, the minimum amount that Lukashenko needs to stabilize the situation is about 300 to 400 million dollars a month. That is why Lukashenko is going to Sochi and, in my opinion, he will be given this money. Maybe not tomorrow, but this year Belarus will receive a number of additional loan tranches from Russia. [ვალების] In addition to restructuring “, – says Vladislav Inozemtsov, Doctor of Economics.
According to political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin, there are certain geopolitical nuances, which is why Putin will still help Alexander Lukashenko so that he can maintain power in Belarus.
“Obviously, he creates problems, but for Putin the problems caused by Lukashenka’s departure will be even greater, because if Lukashenka goes under pressure from his own people, then Putin will take a Maidan-like option, which would be a disaster in terms of his perception of the world and personal power structure.”, – says Dmitry Oreshkin.
On May 25, EU heads of state and government agreed to extend economic sanctions against Belarus, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after the summit. The sanctions list will include individuals and organizations linked to the May 23 incident in which Belarus forced a Ryanair plane to land in Minsk. Belarusian law enforcement officials have since arrested opposition journalist Raman Pratasevich on board.
The EU has so far published three lists of sanctions imposed on Belarus: October 2, November 6 and December 17, 2020. In total, it includes 55 citizens of Belarus, including Alexander Lukashenko, as well as seven legal entities. The EU is currently preparing a fourth package of sanctions.
But sanctions against the regime are not the only pole of EU policy.
It was announced on May 28 that the EU intends to offer a 3 billion euro economic aid package to Belarus, if the country moves to democracy and implements the rule of law and justice, restructure government agencies and infrastructure spending.
The project of “Comprehensive Economic Assistance to Democratic Belarus”, the text of which was read by Radio Liberty, is expected to be presented in the European Union on May 28. The document states that “As soon as Belarus is on the path to democracy, the EU will make a priority and urgent and long-term assistance to the country to help stabilize its economy and reform its state institutions, making them more democratic and enabling them to contribute fully to their citizens.”
The € 3 billion economic support plan will be discussed by EU member states next week.
The plan was first introduced in the EU in the autumn of 2020, after the disputed presidential election in Belarus on August 9, when the winner, Alexander Lukashenko, brutally suppressed protests across the country.