Jun 21, 2022
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Lukashenka recognizes the DPR, but only in the economy

In the photo: President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko.

In the photo: President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko. (Photo: Ramil Sitdikov/POOL/TASS)

The Donetsk People’s Republic would like to develop trade and economic cooperation with Belarus, including in the field of agriculture. He stated this to the head of the republic in an interview with the TV channel “Belarus 1”. Denis Pushilin. According to him, a dialogue has already been established in some areas.

“As for cooperation with Belarus, there are certain contacts in the area of ​​business, the commercial component. Products are already being delivered from Belarus,” he stressed.

At the same time, he noted that the volumes of these deliveries do not meet the interests of both parties. In his opinion, the state should not interfere with businesses to establish contacts, as entrepreneurs will quickly find ways to saturate the market.

“This is, of course, agriculture. Here we are interested in technologies and opportunities available in the Republic of Belarus. If we talk about the supply of fertilizers, we are also interested. If we talk about metallurgy, about coal products, there are also certain points of contact here. We are also interested in machinery, including MAZ, tractors, excavators,” the head of the DPR explained.

This issue, according to Pushilin, is being worked out at different levels.

“I think everything will be on the rise, only to become more active,” he concluded.

It is worth noting that Belarusian goods have always been present on the shelves of the DPR and LPR stores for all these eight years. They were imported, obviously, according to some “gray schemes”. It is unlikely that anything will change now, given that the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko clearly shows no intention of recognizing republics. However, under these conditions, is it possible to talk about something more serious than the trade in Belarusian potatoes in Donetsk supermarkets? And what can Donetsk and Lugansk offer Minsk?

– The Republics of Donbass and Belarus have something to offer each other, – no doubt historian, publicist, permanent expert of the Izborsk Club Alexander Dmitrievsky.

Each side has something that the other cannot produce. For example, Donbass can offer a whole range of equipment for the Belarusian mining industry, which is one of the world’s largest producers of potash fertilizers. On the other hand, Donbass, for example, has never had its own auto industry; in our country, wood has always been a scarce commodity.

“SP”: – How to do all this? Through Russia? Or directly?

– There are no other ways of delivering goods between Donbass and Belarus, except through Russia. And the appearance of Russian banks in the Donbass, which is already taking place, will greatly simplify mutual settlements between producers.

“SP”: – Meanwhile, Belarusian products appeared on the shelves in the DPR many years ago. How is this possible in conditions of non-recognition?

“Firstly, goods don’t care where they are sold.

Secondly, Belarus is a well-known re-exporter of a huge range of products: it is enough to recall the well-known jokes about the innumerable fish wealth of the “Belarusian Sea” – and everything will fall into place. Belarusians have learned very well how to process semi-finished products to finished products. By the way, it is in this way that Pridnestrovian wines bottled in Minsk enter the LDNR through Belarus. In addition, in Donetsk stores you often come across even Ukrainian goods that have undergone Belarusian labeling.

“SP”: – Will the lack of diplomatic recognition still greatly hinder the development of trade relations?

“Diplomatic recognition and trade turnover are not the same thing.

— The Belarusian economy is open and export-oriented. Therefore, Belarus is interested in its presence in foreign markets, especially in the territories of the former USSR, where Belarusian manufacturers have long been known and have a good reputation,” says Advisor to the President of the Russian Association for Baltic Studies Vsevolod Shimov.

– The territories of the DPR and LPR are no exception. Another question is that the political factor hinders trade and economic cooperation between Belarus and Donbass. Minsk is still unable to abandon its focus on preserving the territorial integrity of Ukraine within the borders of the Ukrainian SSR, probably fearing that the change in the post-Soviet borders may somehow affect Belarus itself, although today such risks are not visible.

However, the lack of formal recognition does not prevent Belarus from trading with the same Crimea, where I saw with my own eyes shops of Belarusian products, and Crimean wines and other goods from the peninsula are freely sold in Belarus itself. I think the same schemes will work with Donbass. Let’s hope that over time Minsk will mature and before the official recognition of the new geopolitical realities.

“SP”: – Here is the sphere of agriculture and agricultural machinery. To what extent can the cooperation of the parties be fruitful for each other?

– Belarus is a major producer of agricultural machinery and potash fertilizers, all these products can be in demand in the Donbass, especially after joining the northern agricultural regions to the LPR. However, we must not forget that Belarusian harvesters have serious competitors from Rostov-on-Don, and in the absence of formal recognition, it will not be easy to win competition for the Donbass market or at least just occupy some niche in it.

“SP”: – What other industries in which Minsk has succeeded, may be of interest to Donetsk? And what of the products produced in the Donbass may be of interest to Belarus?

– Belarusian trucks, buses – all this can be in demand. By the way, the same Mariupol is a longtime buyer of MAZ buses, and as a result of hostilities, most of the bus fleet there was destroyed. Belarusian construction companies could also take part in the restoration of the liberated cities of the DPR and LPR.

Perhaps, Belarusian petrochemical products, which were previously supplied to the Ukrainian market, would also be in demand. As for exports from Donbass to Belarus, much will depend on how quickly the economy of Donbass will recover, and what character it will acquire as a result of this recovery. Donbass was a large industrial region, but now many enterprises have been destroyed or stopped, and not everyone will be able to return to life again.

“SP”: – Trade can be conducted only through Russia, right? Belarusian goods have long been supplied to the unrecognized republics of Minsk…

– Yes, probably, at first, “gray” schemes with re-export through Russia will operate, as is happening now. “Grey schemes”, chains of firms-laying companies – all these technologies for working with unrecognized territories have long been worked out.

“SP”: – At the same time, it is not worth waiting for recognition of the DPR and LPR from Lukashenka? Will this be too much for him? Does he still have something to lose?

— Yes, Lukashenka is still trying to save himself room for maneuver, the Belarusian multi-vector approach has not been fully eliminated. For example, Belarus has now introduced a visa-free regime for citizens of Lithuania and Latvia, although these countries are pursuing an extremely unfriendly policy towards Minsk.

On the one hand, this is due to mercantile considerations, since citizens of the Baltic countries go to Belarus for cheaper gasoline, cigarettes and other products, thereby replenishing the Belarusian budget.

On the other hand, this is a clear conciliatory gesture in an attempt to normalize bilateral relations. Minsk reacted very favorably to the initiative of the transit of Ukrainian grain to Klaipeda through the territory of Belarus. Again, additional revenue from transit, plus Minsk wants in exchange for this to receive a partial lifting of sanctions from the West. Naturally, while Minsk is waiting for some kind of concessions from the West, it is not worth counting on the fact that it will recognize the DPR and LPR.

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