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    Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during a joint news conference at the presidential palace at Khartoum, Sudan January 17, 2017

    Lukashenko Blames Russia for Decline in Bilateral Relations

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    Amid deteriorating relations between Minsk and Moscow, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at a press conference on Friday accused Moscow of hiking gas price and establishing border zone between the neighboring states.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Lukashenko on Friday slammed Moscow for decline in bilateral relations.

    LONG-LASTING GAS DISPUTE

    Lukashenko spent almost 40 minutes talking about Belarus-Russia relations and his complaints regarding it, including in the gas and oil area.

    The oil and gas dispute between Russia and Belarus has lasted since the beginning of 2016, when Minsk said the price for Russian natural gas was unfair and unilaterally began to pay less. Russia, in turn, announced the reduction of duty-free oil supplies to Belarus linking it in particular with underpayment for the gas. In October 2016, the parties, without going into details, announced a compromise. However, the dispute remains open.

    The Belarusian president believes that Minsk has a right for decreased gas prices due to the decline in global oil price.

    "Gas [price] is tied to oil [price]. When the oil cost $120, everything was fine. We used to pay obscene amount of money for the oil. According to the formula, gas was tied to oil. And it had a high price. And we paid the price. Oil fell down to $40, it is $51 now, and so on, then the price of natural gas dropped as well," Lukashenko stated.

    According to him, due to the fall in oil prices, a fair price for gas should be at $83 per thousand cubic meters.

    "Oil fell, and today according to this formula, natural gas costs $83," the president said, adding that Russia refused to decrease the price from $132.

    He said that Minsk went to court regarding the decrease in Russian oil supply.

    "I told them what the problem of oil and gas price was. Besides, the argument was about gas only, but they started cutting oil in violation of all agreements. We applied to the court, of course, in accordance with our agreements. There will be trial but is this normal?" Lukashenko asked.

    Overall he evaluated the situation as "mockery."

    He stressed that Belarus would priorities national sovereignty over Russian oil if pressed with the choice.

    "It is clear that we will do without Russian oil, though it will be very difficult for us. It is not comparable, if you choose between independence and Russian, Iranian, Azerbaijani or American oil," Lukashenko told reporters.

    Moscow replied that due to duty free oil supplies to Belarus its budget lost $22.3 billion between 2011-2015.

    "From 2011 to 2015, duty-free annual oil supply to our Belarusian partners varied between 18 million to 23 million tons. And the Russian budget in the period from 2011 to 2015 in this regard did not get $22.3 billion," Kremlin said in a press release.

    Moscow suggested that all the disputes should be settled through negotiations.

    "Regarding disputable issues that arise, both economic and commercial, we are convinced they should be resolved in a calm manner through business negotiations, and we hope that the set of economic differences, which is currently featured on our agenda, will be resolved in the course of such negotiations," the press release read adding that as of today all our Belarusian partners were provided with over $6 billion in loans through various tranches.

    ISSUES ON BORDER

    According to Belarusian leader, another factor, which worsened the relationships between the two countries, was the establishment of the Russian border zone with Belarus.

    On January 27, three orders by the Russian Federal Security Service stating that border zones will be established on the borders of the Pskov, Smolensk and Bryansk regions with Belarus, were published on the state’s official legal information portal and the decision will enter into force on February 7.

    On January 9, the Belarusian president signed a decree abolishing visa requirements for a period of no longer than five days on entry via the Minsk National Airport. The decree covers the citizens of 80 countries, 39 of which are European.

    "Just imagine: there are international treaties and agreements. And a minister, a strong one, an FSB officer etc., puts an end to all agreements by putting his signature, issuing his order… Is it normal?," Lukashenko asked.

    Moscow has called this statement unacceptable.

    "We want to emphasize that this is not the case, no border regime was not introduced… This is due to the need to regulate visits to border areas by citizens of third countries…We believe it is incorrect and wrong to somehow associate such measures with the violation of Russia's international obligations or any international or other intergovernmental agreements," the Kremlin said.

    FATE OF THE UNION STATE

    Moreover, Lukashenko has denied recent media reports about the withdrawal of Belarus from the Eurasian Economic Union and the Union State.

    "With regard to allegations about the Eurasian Economic Union and the Union State they are complete fiction," Belarus leader said.

    At the same time, he added Belarus has lost $15 billion due to the unequal prices and conditions in the union.

    However, the head of state expressed confidence that Moscow and Minsk would be able to solve all the issues and reach an agreement.

    "Sooner or later we will still agree… We are the people, and would like to be treated as such," the Belarusian leader said.

    The treaty establishing the Union State of Belarus and Russia was signed on December 8, 1999.

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    Tags:
    gas prices, relations, oil prices, Alexander Lukashenko, Russia, Belarus
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