Putin meets Belarus president Lukashenko for oil, integration talks
Russia has rejected pleas from Belarus to provide it with cut-rate oil supplies, insisting that it could not provide any discount...
Istanbul, Jale Akbar, İnteraz - 08 February 2020, 16:03
Russian President Vladimir Putin has held talks with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on energy supplies and closer alliance amid the United States’ recent push to further separate the two countries.
The two leaders met in the Russian resort city of Sochi on Friday where they discussed oil supplies, along with the Russia-Belarus alliance, and issues related to other ex-Soviet nations.
Putin’s deputy chief of staff Dmitry Kozak said late Friday that oil, which Russia cut off at the start of the year, can be supplied to Belarus only at market prices. But he said an agreement was reached to supply natural gas for 2020 at the same price as last year, $127 per 1,000 cubic meters.
He also said negotiations between the two countries on oil sales would continue on a “commercial basis”, adding that the leaders agreed to continue talks on integration.
In the evening, Putin and Lukashenko played ice hockey in a gesture of friendship. Both leaders have long practiced the sport, and played several times together in recent years.
The development came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Belarus earlier this week in a bid to “normalize” ties with the traditional Russian ally, seeking to capitalize on tensions between Minsk and Moscow over energy subsidies.
The top US diplomat is the most senior American official to visit Minsk in more than two decades, insisting during a meeting with Lukashenko that Washington backed the country’s independence while recognizing its longstanding ties to Russia.
Lukashenko has held talks with the US and other countries to find alternative oil supplies after Moscow suspended supplies to refineries in Belarus on January 1, though it partially restored them on January 4.
Moscow has been providing Minsk with loans and subsidies to maintain political stability in the neighboring country, but decided to phase these out to lessen the burden on its economy.
The decision has strained ties between the two sides at a time when Lukashenko has been seeking to improve relations with the West.