Interests of Russian and Belarusian people “most important” - Putin

The vital interests of brotherly peoples count most in relations between Russia and Belarus, despite all current possible problems, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said.

Positive processes are continuing to develop in the neighboring countries’ relations “regardless of present-day trends,” Putin said at a session of the Russia-Belarus Union State Council of Ministers, held in Moscow on Friday.

“Problems, disputes and misunderstandings are inescapable between two close neighbors, as happens in families sometimes,” Interfax news agency quoted him as saying. “But our fraternal people’s vital interests and expectations are the most important thing.”

The meeting was held in the Russian capital as “an information war” between Moscow and Minsk seems to be in full swing. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had recently accused his Belarusian counterpart Aleksandr Lukashenko of using anti-Russian rhetoric in the presidential campaign and “dishonest behavior.”

The Belarusian president, in turn, said the Russian leadership was behind critical reports against him, which had been shown on Russian TV channels.

However, earlier this week, Russian presidential chief of staff Sergey Naryhkin said a return to positive relations with the current Belarusian leadership is possible. He made it clear that Minsk should abandon “rhetoric spearheaded at Russia” and observe the terms of all bilateral agreements.

On Friday, Putin reaffirmed the commitment for “productive cooperation and close dialogue” with the Belarusian government. The cooperation between Moscow and Minsk has been bolstered by oint work in such organizations as the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, the prime minister said. He also stressed the importance of ongoing steps by the three states to form a common economic space.

This work has helped Russia and Belarus to tackle the consequences of the global economic crisis, Putin noted. Moscow is ready to discuss the participation of other states in the Customs Union and a planned common economic space, he said.

In the framework of the Customs Union, export duties on oil to Belarus may be cancelled as long as compensation measures are in place, Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister Sergey Shatalov reaffirmed on Friday, as reported by Interfax. Minsk considers the issue, one of the most serious problems hindering bilateral relations in terms of economics.

Nevertheless, Russian Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin said on Thursday, that an agreement on the coordinated macroeconomic policy of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan may be signed soon.

Vedomosti daily described the Friday meeting of the heads of the governments of the Customs Union countries as having key importance for the drafting of the documents, needed for the creation of common economic space. This process is accompanied by many problems, with Minsk insisting on its conditions, first of all in the area of oil and gas.

According to Naryshkin, accusing Russia of political and economic pressure, the Belarusian leadership is disguising its economic and social mistakes. At the same time, it does not notice Moscow’s help, he added.

The meeting between Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Sergey Sidorsky could clarify the relations between Moscow and Minsk, RBK daily speculated. The Russian prime minister has not been directly involved in the current conflict, the newspaper said. Lukashenko congratulated him on his birthday after passing up the opportunity to congratulate Medvedev some days earlier. However, observers note that in the past Putin was the primary target of Lukashenko’s critique.

The Union State of Russia and Belarus should improve the well-being of Russian and Belarusian citizens and provide new opportunities for them, Putin said on Friday.

The prime minister also welcomed the forthcoming release of the movie Brest Fortress. It reminds “of fortitude and valor of Soviet soldiers [during World War II], about the feat that became a symbol of the unity of our peoples,” he stressed.

Sergey Borisov, RT