At a meeting with State Secretary of the Union State of Russia and Belarus Grigory Rapota on September 20, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko expressed his dissatisfaction with the decrease in Russian oil supplies because of the dispute between Minsk and Moscow on gas prices. The president of Belarus said that he instructed the government to optimize the country’s participation in the integration projects. “We are dragging our feet and already for several months cannot agree on the price of gas. In connection with which Russia has reduced oil supplies to Belarus,” the president of Belarus press-service quotes Lukashenko as saying.
According to the head of the country, some Belarusian goods, especially food, are also blocked from delivery to Russia. “It cannot continue in this way anymore. Everything that was agreed upon is being disrupted. The words I said do not mean that we will shut down the integration projects, but we will optimize our participation in these projects,” Lukashenko said. He added that he had already given such an order to the government and the presidential administration.
The gas dispute between Belarus and Russia has lasted since the beginning of 2016. Minsk insists on changing the formula for calculating the price of the gas, reducing the cost from $132 to $73 per thousand cubic meters, and since January 2016, it has been underpaying for Russian supplies. During the first half of the year, the debt of Belarus rose to $270 million. To encourage repayment of the debt, Moscow announced a reduction of oil supplies to Belarusian refineries by 5 million tons in the third and fourth quarter of the year. Instead of 23 million tons, Belarus will receive only 18 tons before the end of the year. Last June, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said that Russia will not increase oil deliveries to Belarus until the gas arrears are paid.
According to the Belta agency, during the parliamentary elections in Belarus on September 11, Alexander Lukashenko said that “Belarus and Russia have almost agreed on the gas issue.” The next day on September 12, Lukashenko instructed the country’s government “in two days to get close to signing a protocol” on the cost of gas. However, after talks at the level of vice-premiers, the Belarus Embassy in Russia reported that the governments of the two countries failed to reach a compromise on the gas issue.