Lukashenka to meet with Putin soon as Belarus considers raising liquidity
Alyaksandr Lukashenka will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin later this month as the Belarusian strongman faces growing isolation from the West over his crackdown on peaceful protesters.
The visit is scheduled for late May, Kommersant reported, and will be Lukashenka’s third trip to Russia this year. the two leaders will discuss their closer integration, among other issues, the document reported.
Putin has pushed Lukashenka in recent years to take steps for the integration of their economies in order to cement a 20-year-old agreement to form a state of union.
Lukashenka pushed back the pressure, but unprecedented street protests in last year’s presidential election and the Western sanctions that followed have weakened his negotiating position with Putin.
Crisis in Belarus
Read our coverage as Belarusians continue to demand the resignation of Alyaksandr Lukashenka amid a brutal crackdown on protesters. The West refuses to recognize him as the country’s legitimate leader after an August 9 election deemed fraudulent.
Lukashenka seeks to lower Russia’s energy prices before further integration, while Putin wants integration first before cutting prices for Belarus, Kommersant reported.
Belarus’s economy relies heavily on sub-market Russian energy to fuel its outdated manufacturing sector.
The Kremlin has presented plans to gradually raise energy prices for its smaller neighbor, which could squeeze the country’s finances at a time when it has few alternatives to Russia.
The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Belarusian officials and companies in response to Lukashenka’s violent crackdown on protesters following the August 2020 presidential election, hampering the country’s ability to collect funds in the West.
According to a presidential decree issued on May 15, Belarus will sell bonds inside Russia with the aim of raising up to 100 billion rubles ($ 1.35 billion) over the next two years.
Russian state-owned banks are the biggest buyers of ruble bonds.
The money raised from the bond sales will be used to refinance the country’s external debt, which stood at $ 18.3 billion as of February 1, much of which is held by Russia.