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Putin and Lukashenko agree on 28 ‘union programs’ for integrating Russia and Belarus

Source: Russia 24

Following talks in the Kremlin on Thursday, September 9, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko agreed on 28 union programs aimed at the integration of their two countries.

The union programs will be approved at a meeting of the Union’s Supreme State Council by the end of the year. The date of the meeting has yet to be determined, Putin said during a joint press conference with Lukashenko, broadcast on Russia 24.

“We agreed to pursue a common macroeconomic policy, harmonize monetary policy, integrate payment systems, ensure information security, deepen cooperation in the customs and tax spheres. […] We agreed on the creation of a unified methodology for harmonizing all indirect taxes and to create a body to monitor these processes. […] This made it possible to agree on a transition to a unified industrial policy and access to public procurement and contracts.”

The texts of the programs have yet to be made publicly available. Lukashenko assured that they will be published soon. “There’s nothing bad for the peoples of Russia and Belarus in these programs and there couldn’t be. Everything is aimed at increasing well-being,” he said.

In turn, Putin said that he doesn’t rule out the future organization of a union parliament of Russia and Belarus. However, he added that an “economic basis” for integration needs to be created first.

Putin also announced that the Russian government decided to lift the restrictions on flights between Russia and Belarus imposed during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, he said that in 2022, Belarus will pay the same price for Russian gas as it did in 2021.

As well, Putin said that Russia will provide Belarus with around $630 million in loans from September 2021 to December 2022.

Later, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced that Putin will likely pay a visit to Minsk in the late fall. 

The Russian and Belarusian authorities have been discussing the political integration of their two countries since 1999. In 2019–2020, the talks centered around so-called union programs” (previously referred to as “roadmaps”) aimed at integrating various economic and administrative sectors. In the past, residents of Belarus have protested against integrating the country with Russia.

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