Moscow wants an interest in Belarusian companies in exchange for new loans to the neighboring country’s economy, Russia’s Kommersant writes in its May 28 issue.
The newspaper focuses on a meeting of the Belarusian-Russian Union State’s Council of Ministers to be held in Minsk on Thursday, suggesting that Minsk will place its request for new Russian loans high on the agenda, while Moscow will push for access to Belarusian energy companies. Speaking about the published agenda, the newspaper says that it looks "innocent and even mundane," but the talks seem to be doomed to end with "either sensational agreements or an immense scandal," considering Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s recent attacks on Moscow. The newspaper says that the Belarusian delegation, in particular, will revisit Minsk’s request for two loans totaling $500 million and 100 billion Russian rubles.
In late 2008, Russia agreed to provide a $2-billion stabilization loan to Belarus, with the first $1-billion tranche made available on November 18. A further $500 million was received on March 12. At the end of last year, Minsk asked Russia for a loan in the amount of 100 billion Russian rubles (some $3.5 billion at the time), saying that it needed the money to use the Russian currency in mutual trade as suggested by Moscow. In addition, the Kommersant notes, Minsk wants to get one more loan, in the amount of $9 billion, to build a nuclear power plant. It says that the Russian delegation would, in response, demand an interest in Belarus’ diary companies and joint energy projects.
According to the newspaper, Russian companies are looking to the Naftan oil refinery, the Homyel Chemical Plant, the Hrodna Azot fertilizer company and the Mahilyowkhimvalakno artificial fiber plant.
"Russian diplomats are anxious about the today talks," the newspaper notes. "The Belarusian leadership represented by Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Syarhey Sidorski has done everything to ensure that Vladimir Putin and the Russian government delegation that he will lead do not have the game in hands in Minsk."