Russia, Belarus to continue working on common economic space

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) meets with his Belarusian counterpart Mikhail Myasnikovich (RIA Novosti / Alexsey Druginyn)
Moscow will steadily work to create a fully-fledged common economic space with Belarus and Kazakhstan, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said.

­Meeting with new Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich on Thursday, Putin praised the Belarusian government and president for their efforts in creating basic agreements of the economic union. Russia will continue to strengthen the common economic space, he stressed. 

Myasnikovich said Russia’s principal position “has cemented our common success.” The Belarusian prime minister noted that Minsk had ratified all 17 documents of the common space. The main task now is to launch an algorithm that would allow the union to start working “at full capacity” in 2012, he said.    

Putin described growing trade as the most important factor in bilateral economic relations. Trade “practically regained the pre-crisis level” last year, the Russian prime minister noted.

But oil and gas prices still remain one of the most important issues in bilateral relations. As the meeting between the two prime ministers took place a day before the inauguration of the Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, Moscow was ready to press Minsk for more concessions, observers said. Russia stopped oil supplies to Belarus on January 1 because the oil price issue has not been resolved, forcing Minsk to use reserves.

Myasnikovich had “a difficult mission” in Russia, political scientist Aleksandr Klaskovsky told Rosbalt news agency. Moscow will try to get the most from the current tension between Belarus and the European countries, he believes.

Many Russian analysts note that as the EU imposes more sanctions against the Belarusian leadership following the crackdown on opposition, Minsk has no other option than to build closer ties with Moscow.

After the meeting, Vladimir Putin told reporters that he and his Belarusian colleague were going to discuss the release of Russian citizens detained on suspicion of taking part in mass riots in Minsk on election day in December last year. The Russian prime minister added that to his knowledge the Russian parliament did not intend to adopt any resolutions on the issue.