Lukashenka Is Seeking More Subsidies from Putin
The release of Belarusian political prisoners Siarhiej Kavalienka and Paval Syramalotau in late September does not mean that everyone should expect a quick release of all other prisoners of conscience.
The authorities stepped up pressure on Ales Bialiacki, Zmicier Dashkievich and Mikalaj Statkievich in order to force them into making a symbolic gesture – signing a petition for clemency. According to the latest information received from Zmicier Dashkievich, he was put into a disciplinary cell where he is being held during 6 days already. He started a hunger strike on September 21.
Fulfilment by the authorities of the main condition of unfreezing relations with the West – release of the political prisoners – depends on the situation in relations between Belarus and Russia.
The authorities hope that reduction in supply of crude oil from Russia will happen only in the last quarter of this year. The prognosis of social and economic development of Belarus in 2013 was drafted proceeding from the understanding that Russia would supply cheap gas and crude oil on advantageous terms.
On September 28, it became known that Ales Bialiacki was put into a disciplinary cell on the eve of this 50th anniversary.
Meeting in Sochi
On September 15 Lukashenka met with Putin in Sochi. State mass media informed that they had talked in a most friendly atmosphere during more than five hours.
On September 21 Lukashenka, answering journalists’ questions, commented on the meeting with the Russian president in the most optimistic manner: “It was a very effective meeting in an absolutely friendly tone. I left in a mood with the understanding that it would be hard for us to find friends in this world. And we must keep together, the two, so to say, Russian, on a large scale, peoples, or else we will be beaten when apart.”
According to Lukashenko, the next meeting with Putin will take place on December 18-19, just after a meeting of the Belarusian and the Russian Prime-Ministers. The meetings will bring “solutions to urgent questions in Belarusian-Russian relations”.
That is, one can expect for decisions on terms of oil and gas supplies to Belarus for 2013. The meeting of the Supreme Council of the Union State.
Lukashenka remarked that the meeting in Sochi had mainly dealt with “the whole range of military and political issues”, including the issue of military and technical cooperation of Belarus and Russia. In particular, Lukashenko claimed: “I asked for support and I’ve got it. In the near future we will get modern airplanes for to carry out duty services on the border.”
Lukashenka has several times claimed that military cooperation is inseparably linked with economic cooperation. Russia must pay for its western shield with cheap energy supplies.
Although Lukashenko did not mention the topic, however it is very much probable that he had discussed the most burning issue with Putin – terms of oil supplies from Russia in the fourth quarter of 2012.
On the eve of the meeting there was much information that Russia intended to cut down on oil supplies to Belarus in the fourth quarter – as a penalty for the "solvents business". With all the negative consequences for Belarus: trade deficit, pressure on currency rates, restrictions on social expenditures.
Lukashenka was trying to convince his Russian counterpart to meet his needs. He kept repeating that Belarusians are also Russians. Lukashenka left with the feeling that Putin had at last realised that Russia had no other allies. Probably, as a result of the meeting Lukashenko now has grounds to assume that Russia would not cut down on oil supplies.
Will Putin Support Lukashenka Once Again?
However on September 24 an official document appeared in the media on essential reduction of oil supplies to Belarus in the last quarter of 2012. According to the document, Russia is going to export to Belarus 1.3 – 1.4 million tons of oil less than it had been envisaged by the agreement signed by the parties in December 2011.
Putin is not impressed by Lukashenka’s words that the Belarusians are Russians. The Russian president considers that the Belarusian ally can be paid less than he demands for. The Kremlin made a decision to punish Lukashenka for the solvents business, on which Lukashenko had gained, and Russia had lost, a sum of around two billion US dollars.
On September 26 Belarus blocked the Russian proposal to the Council of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) that would allow excluding non-taxable export of solvents, lubricants and bio-diesel fuel.
According to the procedure, decisions in the EEC are made by consensus. Now it is Russia’s turn to respond. There is a probability that in December 2012 Russian offers on oil supplies in 2013 will not make the Lukashenka team happy. This may prompt the regime to release all political prisoners to build relations with the West.