BELARUSIAN president Alyaksandr Lukashenka has blamed the Russian government for the oil transit crisis earlier this month.
Speaking to reporters while casting his vote in the local elections in Minsk on Sunday he said:
‘As of today, I do not see any problems with regard to the issues where serious disagreements exist.
‘I mean the supplies of natural gas to Belarus and Europe, above all, and the supplies of oil to Belarus and oil transit to Europe via Belarus.
‘At least, the government reported to me today that specific contracts and prices for oil in January and February have been agreed.
‘They are more than acceptable for us. I mean oil, above all.
‘I want to draw your attention once again to the fact that this oil crisis was provoked not by us. We accepted an extremely unfavourable agreement for natural gas supplies, hoping that oil problems will be resolved in a very favourable way for Belarus, as the Russian government and the Russian leadership promised to us, so that we could somehow level the unprofitable and unfavourable contract for natural gas supplies.
‘When this did not take place and they introduced an oil duty that is unheard of – compare – it was 180 dollars per tonne and now it has been decreased to 53 (dollars per tonne).
‘Probably, this fact proves that we were right. Of course, we could not agree to this. Then they grabbed the valve, as usual. We did not push anybody towards tightening the screws and tightening the pipeline valves.
‘We were fulfilling our functions in a conscientious way. Therefore, questions should not be addressed to us here. We have absolutely nothing to do with the escalation of tensions around the oil pipeline.’
After casting his ballot Lukashenka continued to talk to reporters.
‘I have become absolutely convinced that they demand that we join Russia.
‘When did we promise that we will join Russia? Never. I have never said this. I do not want to bury my Belarus’s sovereignty and independence as the first president of Belarus.
‘I was elected president and this is evidence of our state’s independence. And we have never said this. So why should we discuss this?
‘We have a treaty on the establishment of the Union of Belarus and Russia, the union state. We do have this treaty. Open any article and try accusing Belarus of failing to fulfil anything.
‘And we will open it and will show what the Russian Federation is not fulfilling today. This is the main thing. All the rest is fiction. We may argue or not argue, etc.
‘And then, probably this is not the first time, but I will say it in public for the first time, you want one state and want to have the system of governance and power and control of the economy etc as if it were one state.
‘So what do you want then? What kind of state do you want to build?
‘You want to make our Belarus part of Russia and make it a region.
‘You mock the fact that Lukashenka will never agree to lose power and become a governor. And is Putin ready to give up the president’s post and become a governor? What are you reproaching me for?
‘Therefore, I have become convinced that we even have different views on the union state construction at this stage. This is a dangerous thing. ‘But this does not mean that we should give up from what we have done. We have done a lot in terms of integration. We have brought many things closer.
‘But excuse me, if they reach for the pipeline tap every year and cut off gas or oil to the only loyal union state, Belarus, you must understand that the union is then out of the question.’
He stressed that ‘we are ready for cooperating with the Russian Federation in a decent way and for moving further’.
Lukashenka also expressed gratitude to Russians for the support they provided to Belarus during the oil and gas conflicts between the two countries.
‘They did not support their leadership in this conflict. This was one of the key moments in resolving this conflict. It would be difficult for us if our leadership saw the Russian people supporting the Russian government in this conflict,’ Lukashenka said.
The introduction of a duty on oil exports to Belarus by Russia means that the customs union between the two states is being destroyed, Lukashenka added.
‘One can calculate the oil price and the gas price today, but there are agreements – our regulatory and legal framework that was approved by the presidents and became a law in our states,’ Lukashenka said.
‘Once the treaty has been signed, it should be fulfilled.
‘We did not impose a duty on our goods. And the Russian Federation did not do this for a long time.
‘They have introduced a duty recently. They did so because they are proceeding from the position of force.’ The president also said that if Russia acts in the same way with other states, ‘it will not have prospects’.
Lukashenka recalled that Belarus ‘definitely stood next to Russia’ 10 years ago. ‘Russia actually did not exist then. It was devastated and destroyed,’ the president said.
‘But we were with you at the time of difficulty.
‘Russia was constructing the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline here without taxes back then,’ Lukashenka recalled.
‘We were supporting you, we abolished all taxes and lost about one billion dollars.
‘Why don’t they mention it now?’ The president stressed that Belarusians were acting ‘as brothers and were not seeking profits here’.
Lukashenka criticised the construction of a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea.
‘This is the most stupid project in Russia’s history. It will be mentioned in the Guinness book of records,’ Lukashenka said.
‘Nobody knows what will happen to this gas pipeline, which will be constructed over a pile of ammunition on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Why should one go there if the second branch of Yamal-Europe is ready?’
Lukashenka also stressed that Russia is getting services from Belarus worth up to 10 billion dollars and does not pay for them.
‘We will make an estimate now. If the introduction of an oil duty totalling 45 dollars per tonne in order to get a compensation for oil prices runs counter to the international law, we will recalculate it in a different way.
‘We will demand payments for the land where pipes are located. And this will be a larger amount.’
The president stressed that Belarus did not originate any conflicts.
‘We are in such a position where we should not start conflicts,’ Lukashenka said. ‘We are open to the closest cooperation with the Russian Federation.
‘We should revert to the previous state of affairs. We should have no barriers to the movement of people, capital and goods, no duties should exist.’
He continued: ‘We will go for any cooperation with Europe to guarantee our national security concerning the supplies of hydrocarbons.’
‘We do not care about who to cooperate with in order to secure our people’s calm life and make sure they do not come across such crises,’ the president said.
He stressed that Europe and the USA ‘behaved decently’ during the oil conflict between Belarus and Russia. ‘They offered assistance and support to us, if the Belarusian state and the people need it. We will never forget this,’ Lukashenka said.