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9 Jun 2024

Friendship with Mongolia, historical parallels, big aviation plans, Lake Baikal in President’s Week

Friendship with Mongolia, historical parallels, big aviation plans, Lake Baikal in President’s Week

The work schedule of the Belarus president is always full of events. Aleksandr Lukashenko holds conferences and working meetings on the most topical matters concerning the country’s development, regularly visits the regions, goes on foreign trips and welcomes foreign guests, talks to reporters, signs decrees and laws. And even if there are no public events, it does not mean that the head of state does not work. It must be said that even when he relaxes, for instance, by playing ice hockey or chopping firewood, Aleksandr Lukashenko happens to find the time to give yet another instruction. All the decisions must be prompted by life, he likes to say.

The President’s Week project is intended for those, who want to keep up with the head of state, be up-to-date on the latest statements and decisions of the Belarusian leader.

Aleksandr Lukashenko’s last work week was full of foreign visits. He initially had productive negotiations in Mongolia during the first ever top-level visit. The leaders of the countries came to terms not only on friendship and cooperation, on restoration of the tight relations that existed back in the days of the Soviet Union and put together a concrete roadmap. Aleksandr Lukashenko also directly addressed Mongolia’s opposition forces and explained in detail who genuine friends are.

Communication with the Mongolia president was full not only of official events but also informal meetings outdoors. Aleksandr Lukashenko was made familiar with the culture and traditions of the Mongolian nation and presented an entire “herd” of Belarusian horses to his Mongolian counterpart.

After that Aleksandr Lukashenko flew to the Russian city of Irkutsk where he and the local oblast governor sketched out new prospects for advancing the relations. One of the most ambitious tasks is to include Belarusian enterprises in aircraft manufacturing chains. It is quite possible that Belarusians will be able to fly on board their own planes soon. In Irkutsk Oblast Aleksandr Lukashenko also made his old dream come true by visiting the unique Lake Baikal.

Last week the president also authorized the allocation of Br1.25 million for implementing a number of projects of cultural significance, sent a congratulatory address in connection with the 90th anniversary since the foundation of the Belarusian Writers’ Union, greeted participants and guests of the 14th republican festival of national cultures and the 30th international forum on information and communication technologies TIBO.

All the details of the presidential events are covered by the latest episode of BelTA’s special project President’s Week.

HISTORICAL VISIT. What did Aleksandr Lukashenko agree on in Mongolia?

Aleksandr Lukashenko started the new work week when he was in Mongolia already. He came to Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar on the first state visit in the history of bilateral relations in the evening on 1 June. The next day he went to the Chinggis Khaan National Museum.

On Monday, 3 June when a new day just dawned in Minsk the motorcade of the Belarusian head of state rolled into the square in front of the Government Palace in Ulaanbaatar. Negotiations with Mongolia President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh were preceded by an official welcome ceremony involving an honor guard company and horseback guards, who wore historical costumes dating back to Chinggis Khaan’s era, and the performance of state anthems.

After the welcome ceremony the two leaders proceeded into the building of the Government Palace where the Belarus president left a note in the book of distinguished guests: “I am impressed by the beauty of the country of eternally blue skies and the hospitality of our Mongolian friends. Belarus is interested in strengthening cooperation with Mongolia in all areas. I am convinced that our states are on the threshold of a qualitatively new stage in the development of bilateral cooperation.”

It is worth noting that the first meeting of the two leaders during the visit had taken place the day before, after Aleksandr Lukashenko went to the Chinggis Khaan National Museum. They talked for over two hours in an informal setting in the countryside residence Ikh Tenger. One may assume that the presidents had a preliminary discussion about many matters over there.

On the main day the heads of state held negotiations in a narrow format and then in an expanded one for a total of about four hours. They also communicated for nearly three hours during a state reception in the evening on the same day. Certainly, attention was also paid to a concert of Mongolian artists. The presidents ate national cuisine dishes but most of the time they worked.

With members of the delegations they reviewed all the main positions step by step to put together a roadmap designed to guide the advancement of relations. It is interesting that the narrow-format meeting of Aleksandr Lukashenko and Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh took place in a traditional Mongolian yurt, which was installed in one of the halls of the Government Palace. It was a tribute to traditions, which Mongolians hold in great esteem.

On the whole, the two countries are similar in many ways. Both are sandwiched between two empires, Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked. While Belarus is sandwiched between Russia and the European Union, Mongolia is located between China and Russia. Aleksandr Lukashenko backed Mongolia’s foreign policy, which the country pursues very accurately and balances between these forces.

Particularly since the country has colossal natural riches and these riches should be preserved and protected. “I wholeheartedly wish you to be strong to survive and to make the Mongolian people rich and great as they deserve,” the president said. “The great Genghis Khan, whom you revere (and deservedly so because you have a great history) always taught that in order to achieve something, everyone should do their jobs. And the government should be strong as a fist. Nobody can hold power with spread fingers”.

The heads of state signed a treaty on friendly relations and cooperation between Belarus and Mongolia as the key result of the visit. A total of 14 various documents on advancing bilateral cooperation in various spheres were signed as a result of official talks at the top level. In addition to the treaty the roadmap designed to guide Belarus-Mongolia cooperation through 2026 is the most significant document. Apart from that, about 15 agreements worth at least $20 million were signed during a business forum in Ulaanbaatar at that time.

The foundation of the visit and Belarus’ proposals

Aleksandr Lukashenko visited Mongolia in 1992 as a member of the parliament just at the time when diplomatic relations between the two countries were established. “Your country has undergone amazing changes. There is nothing to compare them with. As I look at Ulaanbaatar today, I am pleasantly shocked. New buildings, structures. Progress is visible at every step starting from the airport,” Aleksandr Lukashenko told Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh.

In other words, Mongolia moves forward and has rather ambitious plans in various spheres. First of all, in agriculture for the sake of bolstering its own food security. In other words, the parties considered not only deliveries of ready-made products but also using Belarusian technologies to develop dairy animal husbandry and crop farming. An entire spectrum of machines and equipment is needed for it. In turn, it opens up prospects for advancing cooperation in the industrial sphere.

But for now Belarus-Mongolia trade is quite small and even meager, as Aleksandr Lukashenko put it. It amounted to about $30 million in 2023. And the most important thing is that the desire and a purely human basis for cooperation are available. Those include first and foremost the kind memory about friendly relations since the days of the Soviet Union. Mongolia was unofficially called the 16th republic of the USSR because the social and economic ties were so tight. Specialists from Belarus also made a significant contribution to the development of the country back then. The Mongolian president mentioned that.

“We can confidently say that our countries have not had any global problems and disagreements. It is all based on our long-standing relations since the times of the Soviet Union,” the Belarusian head of state stressed.

The Belarus president noted that he was well aware of the coverage of his visit to Mongolia, both positive and negative feedback, and the opinion of the opposition in this country. “To the opposition I would like to say the following. We didn’t come here to find some kind of profit. Our trade is about $30 million, which is meager. We discussed this issue with the president yesterday,” the Belarusian leader said. “We want to increase it. But not only for our benefit. If Mongolia is interested in our technologies (we can solve any issue for you), we can compete on a fair basis with any state that is located next to you.”

The simplest example of Belarus’ open stance is the readiness to support Mongolia taking into account Ulaanbaatar’s aspiration to conclude an interim agreement on trade with the EAEU by the end of this year. The agreement will pave the way for the growth of mutual trade and Mongolian export not only to Belarus but also to other countries of the economic union.

“Then again I want to address the opposition. What benefit will we gain here if we support your contacts with the EAEU? These are your nearest neighbors. And you should develop broad interaction with them. We are ready to lend a shoulder,” Aleksandr Lukashenko assured. “We didn’t come here for profit. We want to restore our relations, which have always been not friendly but fraternal. This is the foundation of our visit!”

“There is no doubt that the foundation of our relations has been created by our very close and warm relations during the days of the Soviet Union. Our nations fought together against invaders. We restored our life together. And we came as envoys of good will, as your friends in order to deepen and expand our relations,” the Belarus president added.

At the same time economy lies at the heart of any interstate relations. The president suggested advancing progressively: “We do not suffer from gigantomania. We understand our relations and our place in Mongolia's relations with other countries perfectly well. We would like to start with something good, with something great together with you. Three or four projects so that we could convince your people, the country’s leadership, journalists and your opposition that we can do something.”

In order to add greater dynamics to the advancement of relations, Aleksandr Lukashenko invited his Mongolian counterpart to come to Belarus and personally evaluate the capabilities and see how the country lives and develops.

However, as a result of this visit the package of signed documents indicates that there are many more projects and promising areas than the three or four projects mentioned by Aleksandr Lukashenko. Every agreement meets goals and tasks of Mongolia’s national programs such as Vision 2050, Food Revolution, Billion Trees, and other ones. The parties agreed on deliveries of Belarusian vehicles, machines, and equipment for the mining industry, agricultural machines and equipment, and emergency response vehicles. The parties also looked into the possibility of training Mongolian specialists to use this hardware and into increasing the number of Mongolian students in Belarus.

The Belarusian president also spoke in favor of setting up joint enterprises in Mongolia to assemble tractors, trucks, elevators, and haul trucks among other things. “If the volume of supplies grows, we will set up joint ventures. We expect Belarusian equipment and technologies to be successful,” he said.

Belarus is intent on long-term mutually beneficial cooperation. Therefore, it is ready to offer ways to finance projects on soft terms among other things, the Belarusian head of state assured.

Mongolia residents are familiar with Belarusian light industry products and foodstuffs and appreciate them for their quality and affordable prices. Therefore, Belarus is interested in increasing the volume of deliveries and expanding the product range. “We are considering the possibility of opening specialized Belarusian trading platforms,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stated.

“In turn, we will not be in your debt. Our consumers are interested in your quality goods. Such goods as cashmere, wool and leather goods will be popular in our market. We are ready to assist the Mongolian side with opening specialized stores in Belarus, including in Minsk,” the president stressed.

In addition to the economy, the talks also touched upon cooperation in science and education, environmental protection, culture, mass media, sport, and tourism. There is a common interest in cooperation in security, law enforcement, and response to emergencies. “Particularly matters concerning the security and defense of your country. You possess untold riches. You have everything under your feet. Even the things that are yet to be discovered. Do you think they will let you live in peace? That’s why you have to be able to protect it. We’re ready to give you a shoulder to lean on. There are no closed topics in cooperation with you and there will never be. You are our kindred people,” the president added.

Criticism of Mongolian opposition and historical parallels

In a statement for mass media Aleksandr Lukashenko responded to the criticism present in Mongolia in connection with Russia’s special military operation and the support Belarus provides to Russia.

“I have read the entire [media] review. I especially paid attention to journalists of Mongolia. And I see that they are simply biased in favor of one side. They do not see what is going on. Not all of them but individual journalists. And such opinions are spread in the society,” the head of state noted.

Indeed, Aleksandr Lukashenko was welcomed with all the honors and the negotiations were quite intense and positive. But some mass media do not care for it and published one-sided biased statements focusing on Russia’s special military operation, aggression, aid for Russia… This is why part of the society definitely took a negative view of the visit. The scalding hot domestic political situation also contributed to it: Mongolia is on the eve of parliamentary elections.

The Mongolian opposition even intended to stage an anti-Belarusian rally in the capital city. However, only a couple of people showed up as a result. But the Belarus president grabbed the occasion to dot all the i’s.

“Do not paint us as enemies of the Mongolian people. We are your closest friends and brothers. The president [of Mongolia] and I will prove that we can do a lot in the economy together. No less than the empires you border on and developed countries can do. I want it very much and we will do it,” the Belarusian leader said.

He explained the essence of the ongoing processes to the Mongolian audience and drew some parallels. As a historian by education, the Belarus president recalled the Mongolian Empire leader Genghis Khan, who fought for the country and protected his people. “They died on the battlefield by the thousands. But if someone dared offend his warrior, he razed settlements and their residents with sword and fire,” he said. “What happened between Ukraine and Russia? The same thing.”

The head of state spoke about the collapse of the Soviet Union and about the contribution of the West led by the United States of America to it. “The Soviet Union, with which you [Mongolia] cooperated. No one says anything bad about it. Those who remember this cooperation. There were different times, but in general the cooperation was good,” the Belarusian leader said.

After the USSR collapse there was an agreement that the West would not move any power bloc towards the Belarusian and Russian borders. Exactly the opposite happened. They started to create a springboard in Ukraine for attacking Belarus and Russia, began to impose sanctions.

“Ukraine was the first country to impose sanctions against us. Our dear, friendly Ukraine. My roots are there. Why? The West ordered it to enforce sanctions against us,” the Belarusian head of state remarked. “We did not attack them. We did not order them how to live.”

Continuing the historical parallel with how Genghis Khan defended his people, the Belarusian leader recalled how people were burned in their homes in modern Ukraine. “Take a look at Odessa, at how Russian people were burned there. The general public in Russia began to pressurize President Putin and the authorities to protect the people. There is a parallel here. Putin protected his people there,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Moreover, the Normandy format talks were held in Minsk in 2015 and good agreements were reached. However, they were not implemented by Ukraine, and the West said that it was just a feint to give time to arm against Russia.

“So what was Russia supposed to do? Why do Mongolians today, having a parallel with Genghis Khan, whom you admire (and I supported the president here - this is a great page of your great history, you are proud of it), condemn Russia? And especially Belarus which acted as a guarantor of the peace talks?” the Belarus president said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also recalled how peace agreements were initialed after the start of the special military operation and several rounds of peace talks, including in Belarus. However, at the insistence of the West they were scrapped, and the West does not allow stopping the confrontation today.

“Russians do not want this war. I know it well. Why not sit down at the negotiating table? Why not come to an agreement? Americans want to drown Russia in this confrontation and war with Ukraine. They want Russia to be at war with Ukraine so that they have time to deal with China. That is the essence of their policy. This is why I would like Mongolia to understand this. I want you to listen not only to what Americans and Westerners have to say, but to see what is really going on,” the Belarusian leader said.

Moreover, he stressed that Russia is an allied country for Belarus and Belarus and Russia have a joint military force. “These are our most kindred brothers. We think and speak the same language. Therefore, I acted according to all legally signed treaties. Didn’t the Westerners, the Americans know that? They knew it. But I do not want people to die. And we do and will do everything to make peace there. If Americans allow people over there, it will be there tomorrow. But they do not need it. So please sort out who is guilty here and who is right,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Archery practice and Belarusian “horses” as a gift to the Mongolian president

The next day after the official talks Aleksandr Lukashenko and Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh continued communicating in an informal setting. The Belarusian head of state went to a Mongolian culture center in the countryside where he was made familiar with the indigenous traditions and customs of the people of Mongolia.

Immediately upon arrival the leaders of the countries planted Siberian spruces on the grounds of the center. In honor of the distinguished guest from Belarus the center recreated the atmosphere of the Mongolian national festival Naadam, which is celebrated annually in July. It featured vocal and choreographic performances mixed with traditional Mongolian sports. One of them is wrestling.

Aleksandr Lukashenko was shown a traditional Mongolian shooting bow. Arrows are made of deer antlers and bamboo while the bowstring is made of natural silk. The heads of state watched the shooting by the masters. Together with his Mongolian counterpart, the Belarusian president also tried his hand at bow shooting and sent the arrow flying for more than 75 meters at the first attempt.

The heads of state continued their communication over an informal lunch. Naturally, business matters were mentioned during the lunch in furtherance of the bilateral cooperation agenda.

Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko gifted two MTZ tractors of different models to Mongolia President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh. But before that he had received a pair of Mongolian horses as a gift from his counterpart. Both stallions are red duns. They were nicknamed: Mir [peace] and Khutki [fast].

“Thank you! A very expensive gift!” the Belarusian head of state said.

“Allow me to gift you a more powerful ‘horse’,” Aleksandr Lukashenko told his counterpart as the two presidents approached the tractors.

“Here is a ‘horse’ for you. It is our traditional MTZ-80 tractor that has been on the market for a long time. 80 horse powers. We have certainly updated it. But it was sold all over the world in the Soviet times. The most popular model. Americans still use such tractors. But those used to be blue ones [while the gifted ones are red]. Well, I cannot gift blue tractors to Mongolians. They have enough blue color [Mongolia is known as the land of the eternally blue sky] as it is,” the Belarusian leader said.

The second tractor is more powerful – 200 horse powers. “It is meant for large fields. A very powerful tractor. Comparatively uncomplicated. But those, who haven’t seen such machines before, will need training. A very good machine. It can till soil, mow, harvest forage, and transport things. You can attach a trailer to it. It has an air conditioner and everything else. It will be a boon in Mongolia. These tractors are in great demand right now,” the Belarus president presented the machine.

“It is a promising tractor for Mongolia. I will convince the president to develop tractor construction here with our aid,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.

IRKUTSK IS OURS! What place of power Aleksandr Lukashenko visited and how Belarus intends to start making planes

After leaving Mongolia Aleksandr Lukashenko went to Russia on a working visit on 4 June. Stepping up cooperation with Russia’s Irkutsk Oblast was on the agenda. Belarus has had solid relations with this Siberian region in trade, investment, and cultural affairs for a long time. However, it was time to reinforce interaction and come up with new projects of significance for both sides.

A unique place of power and a dream come true

In the airport Aleksandr Lukashenko was greeted by the Russian president’s plenipotentiary representative to the Siberian Federal District Anatoly Seryshev, Irkutsk Oblast Governor Igor Kobzev, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Russia Dmitry Krutoi.

“It feels good in Mongolia but here I feel at home,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said after stepping out of the aircraft.

It was drizzling in Irkutsk when the president arrived but despite the weather the head of state did not want to postpone the fulfillment of his long-standing dream: he had repeatedly stated his intention to visit unique natural landmarks in Russia, including Lake Baikal.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that during the years of his presidency he had traveled around the world and can say that Russia is a unique place.

The head of state was also recommended to visit these incredibly beautiful places by his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. “There are so many interesting things in Russia. There is such beauty that I have not seen yet. I want to see it. Vladimir Putin suggested I go to Altai Territory, Lake Baikal, Kamchatka Peninsula, stay there and see the sights. For me Russia is open. This is very interesting to me,” the head of state said in an interview.

“A unique place!” Aleksandr Lukashenko had had the time to appreciate the beauty of Irkutsk Oblast during the flight and he shared his impressions then.

“A place of power. It gives that kind of energy,” Irkutsk Oblast Governor Igor Kobzev noted.

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today. The president went to Lake Baikal right away. His ship travelled along the Circum-Baikal railway that runs on the lake shoreline along the foot of the Olkhinsky plateau. This railway section is a unique specimen of engineering art. It was literally carved out of the rocks above Lake Baikal in 1902-1905. There are 424 engineering structures in the 84km section of the road, including 39 tunnels with the total length of almost 9km, 47 stone galleries, and 14km of supporting walls. At the beginning of the 20th century this section of the road was called “the golden buckle of Russia’s steel belt”.

A heartfelt meeting in Irkutsk Oblast and an eternal dispute with Putin

After recharging on Lake Baikal’s energy Aleksandr Lukashenko met with Irkutsk Oblast Governor Igor Kobzev the next day.

The Belarusian head of state was greeted with bread and salt and folk songs in front of the Irkutsk Oblast government building. Veterans of war and labor, artists of the folklore group of the Irkutsk Association of Belarusian Culture and the Obereg folk group of the Irkutsk Oblast folk art center came to welcome Aleksandr Lukashenko.

“I can see you are our people right away! Thank you very much!” Aleksandr Lukashenko told the welcome party in Belarusian. “Do you even visit the motherland? It is certainly far away but you have to come. We will be glad to see you.”

Igor Kobzev mentioned Aleksandr Lukashenko’s trip to Lake Baikal during the talks. Locals greatly appreciate this wonder of nature and this is probably why tourists from all over the world go there.

“I know you had wanted to visit Lake Baikal for a long time. In September 2020-[when Igor Kobzev was in Belarus on a working visit] you said that you would surely do it. Thank you for honoring your word,” the head of the Russian region said.

He informed the Belarusian president about the region’s capabilities and industrial potential. He dwelt on the economy of the oblast and talked about the implementation of the largest investment projects.

“Today we need the presence of our brothers, colleagues, and partners. We are always open,” the governor said.

After meeting with Igor Kobzev Aleksandr Lukashenko talked to local residents: a number of Irkutsk residents gathered outside the government building in anticipation of the Belarusian president. As it turned out, many of them have relatives in Belarus.

Irkutsk residents recalled it had been raining and wondered whether the president was too cold. By the way, the weather was much warmer in Belarus these days. Aleksandr Lukashenko said that on the contrary, he likes cool weather.

“The president of Russia and I argue all the time about it: he likes normal, warm weather while I can’t tolerate it at all,” the head of state said.

“You should also come here for fishing! Visit us more often,” Irkutsk citizens asked Aleksandr Lukashenko while taking commemorative photos with him.

Plans and perspectives

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Russia Dmitry Krutoi shared results of the talks with the Irkutsk Oblast government with mass media.

“Our cooperation with Irkutsk Oblast has been gaining momentum for the last two years. In terms of our export to the region, we have returned to the pre-COVID level. Nevertheless, the president said that it’s very little and that we need to double or triple it,” the ambassador said.

Setting up a wholesale and distribution logistics hub for Belarusian goods in the region was the initial basic project meant to develop trade not only with Irkutsk Oblast but also beyond – to China. However, the plans have been adjusted.

The Brest Oblast governor is responsible for promoting cooperation with Irkutsk Oblast and the president instructed to study the possibility of creating a Brest hub without extending this approach to the entire Belarus for now.

“Brest manufacturers, including the Brest meat processing plant, Santa Bremor and other Brest Oblast manufacturers, have been successfully supplying their products to the Russian region. There is a small distance to China. I think, it will create no logistics problems for Brest manufacturers,” the ambassador noted. “This is why we are going to try [working in] a pilot mode with Brest. In any case we will not give up on this project and we continue implementing it”.

In 2023 the trade between the enterprises affiliated with the Industry Ministry and Irkutsk Oblast organizations totaled $16.3 million. In terms of food products and agricultural raw materials, the trade amounted to $3.2 million last year.

The Belarusian haul truck manufacturer BelAZ intends to ship twice as many trucks this year. The Belarusian automobile manufacturer MAZ is also actively present in the region. Not only MAZ trucks sell in Irkutsk Oblast. The agricultural machinery manufacturer Gomselmash has signed a five-year program with Irkutsk Oblast and will essentially double deliveries of harvesters this year. The mechanical engineering company Amkodor has started deliveries. The president wondered about passenger transportation reform in the region and the demand for various means of transportation. For instance, what the city of Bratsk needs. A number of complications stand in the way.

“Such as, unfortunately, the negative example of our Union State agenda. Belarusian manufacturers are physically unable to participate in tenders held as part of individual passenger transport programs that use special treasury loans of the Russian Finance Ministry,” the ambassador said.

Nevertheless, there are also positive examples. 11 trolleybuses for the city of Bratsk have been assembled in the city of Ufa where a Belarusian-Russian joint venture operates.

The production of machine tools was another important topic concerning the manufacturing sector that Aleksandr Lukashenko paid attention to during the trip to Irkutsk Oblast. A large delegation from the Russian region has already visited Belarus in order to study possibilities of cooperation and of realization of investment projects.

“Modernization programs are extremely large. Irkutsk Oblast ranks 8th in Russia in terms of investments. As many as 180 major investment projects alone envisage investments to the tune of RUB3.5 trillion. It is a colossal amount of money,” Dmitry Krutoi said.

Tapping into at least part of these resources within the framework of cooperation with Belarus in the sphere of machine tools production is the idea.

Irkutsk Oblast is Russia’s most forested region. Cedar plantations alone occupy as much area as all of Belarus’ forests. The figure does not include pine trees, larch trees, and other tree varieties. In terms of reforestation the region is also ranked 1st in Russia. There are nearly 60 forest nurseries in the region where saplings are grown.

“We have already encouraged our Forestry Ministry to look for cooperation opportunities,” the ambassador said.

Dmitry Krutoi remarked that within the framework of import substitution work is in progress to make domestic equipment and machines for the forestry industry in order to replace Scandinavian products. Such machines are in demand not only in Belarus but also in Russia.

“We would love to discuss it at the government level. Not only our Amkodor implements such projects in Minsk and at a Belarusian-Russian joint venture in [Russia’s Republic of] Karelia. For instance, KamAZ would also like to develop its system of forestry vehicles. But in order to support Union State manufacturers, we have to get forest plot leaseholders interested in buying at least some of Union State machines. And then we will be able to develop a new branch of the mechanical engineering industry to cater to the forestry industry,” the ambassador is convinced.

Public utilities represent another interesting cooperation avenue. “The region has spent nearly $100 million on various projects this year alone. Our manufacturers participate in four pilot projects,” Dmitry Krutoi said.

Apart from that, Irkutsk Oblast intends to build four waste recycling plants. Plans are being implemented to replace elevator equipment. By the way, the amount of Belarusian elevators shipped to Irkutsk Oblast in Q1 2024 alone equals the amount shipped in the entire last year. The region also has more ambitious plans: the construction of the state-of-the-art collector from Irkutsk to Lake Baikal, which will fix the problem of sewage water treatment and thus bolster the appeal of the tourism infrastructure of the region.

Belarusian specialists may participate in the implementation of this project, too.

High-tech projects in aircraft engineering and the president’s favorite aircraft

According to Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Russia Dmitry Krutoi, the advancement of cooperation in aviation was the main goal of Aleksandr Lukashenko’s trip to Irkutsk. The Russian government has adopted an ambitious program on aircraft manufacturing and the head of state decided to get familiar with capabilities of Irkutsk Aviation Plant. Certainly, not to satisfy his idle curiosity but in order to find possible contact points. It is no secret that 558 Aircraft Repair Plant in Baranovichi and 407 Civil Aviation Plant in Minsk actively cooperate with Russian partners. Taking into account large orders from the Russian side this interaction should be developed at a brand new level.

As he toured the plant, the head of state got familiar with stages of production of military aircraft (by the way, aircraft for the Belarusian Air Force are also made here), the assembly of the MS-21 passenger liner. The management of the enterprise informed the Belarusian president in detail about the products the enterprise makes and promising R&D projects.

Irkutsk Aviation Plant is also intent on expanding manufacturing cooperation with aviation enterprises of Belarus. Therefore, the implementation of joint projects in aircraft production the way, for instance, Belarus and Russia do it in machine tool industry and microelectronics was the main topic during the visit of the head of state.

“If they want to do it in Belarus, we should start doing it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko spoke in favor of development of manufacturing cooperation ties.

The development of passenger technologies and transport technologies is the idea. Belarusians already help Russian partners by supplying components, by repairing and modernizing aviation hardware but the prospects are much bigger. The Belarus president invited the management of the enterprise to determine new niches and start working without delay.

“I need cutting-edge technologies. In other words, we would like to be integrated into your processes concerning high technologies. And they should be our common wealth. Belarus and Russia shouldn’t split it. As we often say, it should be a Union State product. Let’s equalize rights of Belarusian and Russian goods to avoid any problems. Then the talks about who merges with whom will stop. Economy will merge everything,” the head of state said.

The possibility was also discussed of a Belarusian air carrier buying new medium-range aircraft due to the need to expand the aircraft fleet and in view of the strong demand for flights, including to and from regions of Russia.

At the plant Aleksandr Lukashenko was gifted a model of the Su-30SM2 fighter.

“My favorite aircraft,” the president said.

"The most important thing is it is highly maneuverable," said Director General of Irkutsk Aircraft Plant Alexander Veprev.

Director General of Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation Yuri Slyusar told mass media that Belarusian enterprises can get orders worth billions of Russian rubles from Russia’s aircraft manufacturing industry.

Yuri Slyusar remarked that he had been to Belarus more than once and knows firsthand that the country’s aircraft manufacturing industry has been preserved and continues developing. The Russian side is ready to step up cooperation in this sphere since the country faces great tasks now. In the past Belarusian enterprises used to do mainly repairs and modernization of aviation equipment in addition to making a small range of components, today it is necessary to greatly increase the capability.

“I am talking about orders worth billions of [Russian] rubles that we can theoretically place with Belarusian aviation enterprises. Parts and modules to assemble aircraft. RUB-3-5 billion every year,” Yuri Slyusar clarified.

In his words, the production of passenger aircraft and cargo aircraft is the idea.

As he was leaving Irkutsk, the head of state seemed to be in great mood. The leadership of the Irkutsk Oblast government were in the same great mood: they viewed the Belarus president’s visit as essentially an official one and highly appreciated Aleksandr Lukashenko’s dropping by.

Before the presidential aircraft left for Belarus, Irkutsk Oblast Governor Igor Kobzev asked Aleksandr Lukashenko to say something to Irkutsk residents on camera. And the president made a very unusual statement.

“I can tell you one thing about Irkutsk: Irkutsk is ours! Don’t think that it is remote and is not Belarusian. The governor and I have agreed that it will be common: a node of our single Fatherland in two sovereign states. Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] and I are creating a good project. A fabulous place! You live in paradise,” the Belarusian leader said.


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Great Patriotic War monuments in Belarus