Lukashenka attacks Russia over oil supply cut
Alyaksandr Lukashenka has denounced Russia's decision to reduce its oil exports to Belarus amid a fresh gas price dispute between the two countries.
"We treat that as pressure on Belarus but I won't tolerate pressure and neither will the Belarusians," Mr. Lukashenka said in Minsk on Tuesday, speaking at a meeting with Grigory Rapota, state secretary of the Union State of Belarus and Russia.
Russia has cut oil supply to Belarus since June, in retaliation for Belarus' refusal to pay its gas bills in full. The countries' months-long talks on a new gas price deal have failed so far.
Mr. Lukashenka painted a bleak picture of Belarusian-Russian economic ties, noting that the countries had failed to boost their trade this year. "We always say with pride that trade [with Russia] has decreased in value terms but the physical amount has increased," the government's news agency BelTA quoted him as saying. "This is evidence that we have started supplying a larger amount of goods to Russia but at just half the previous price. What does Belarus profit from that? Virtually nothing."
Mr. Lukashenka went on to complain about restrictions on exports of some Belarusian-made goods to the Russian market. In particular, he attacked Russia's Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Monitoring Service (Rosselkhoznadzor) for barring many Belarusian food companies from the Russian market in an effort to protect domestic producers.
"Why am I speaking openly about that? Because I've grown tired of that, that has gone over the top, that has to stop," he said.
Mr. Lukashenka warned that Belarus could scale down its involvement in the Union State and the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in response to Moscow's "pressure." In particular, he said, it may recall many officials who now have jobs with Moscow-based EAEU institutions.
"We have sent our best professionals there," he said. "We will find jobs for them here, and as for decisions made [by EAEU bodies] there, we will agree to them because none are virtually made. We have violated everything that we agreed upon."
Mr. Lukashenka said that Russia needed to make a clear decision whether it would honor its agreements with Belarus.
He asked Mr. Rapota to raise Belarus' concerns with the Kremlin and defend "common interests."