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5 Nov, 2020 10:41

Oil in this together? Embattled leader Lukashenko asks Putin for Russian oilfield to shore up Belarus’ troubled economy

Oil in this together? Embattled leader Lukashenko asks Putin for Russian oilfield to shore up Belarus’ troubled economy

Belarus has long enjoyed the anomalous economic position of being an oil exporter despite only producing enough to meet about 30% of domestic needs of the black stuff. Now Minsk wants to buy a field of its own from Russia.

‘Lukanomics’ has seen the country export around 50% of its oil production, by importing cheap crude from Russia which it refines and sells on to third parties. Now the under-pressure leader wants to make things more formal, as protests against his rule stretch into their third month.

In a telephone call with Russian President Putin on Wednesday, where the pair discussed closer bilateral ties, Lukashenko made an offer to purchase rights to an oil deposit. It would come as part of plans to secure oil and gas supplies to the country.

The Kremlin told reporters that it would consider the proposal, with a spokesperson saying that “after being studied, the issue will be considered thoroughly at the next negotiations.”

Also on rt.com As protests continue in Belarus, embattled President Lukashenko fails to grasp ‘seriousness’ of situation – Moscow expert

The news comes as protests across Belarus show no sign of letting up, following Lukashenko’s widely disputed re-election in August. At least six people have been reported to have been killed, and around 20,000 arrested during the unrest.

EU ambassadors have also reached an agreement this week to impose a series of economic sanctions on Lukashenko and his government. Russian news agency TASS cited comments from an EU diplomat, who said that “ambassadors approved the new black list, which includes representatives of the authorities, including Lukashenko.” This is on top of measures announced in October against 40 officials in Minsk.

Despite fuel exports making up 20 per cent of the country’s GDP, Belarus is dependent on Russia for around 80 per cent of its oil. In 2019, Belarus’ refineries risked running dry as negotiations with Moscow over the price of oil stalled. Lukashenko’s proposal would offer Minsk more control over that energy supply.

Also on rt.com ‘International solidarity’: German technicians refuse to work on Belarusian President Lukashenko’s plane at Hamburg airport

President Putin has continued to support his counterpart, who has led Belarus for more than a quarter of a century. In September, Putin signed off a $1.5 billion loan to shore up the country’s economy after Lukashenko told Moscow, “a friend is in trouble.”

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