Updated at 18:07,08-09-2017

Beijing lends billions to Minsk

RFE/RL with reporting by BelTA, dpa, and Interfax

China has agreed to lend about $7 billion to Belarus through credit lines set to open this month.

Belarusian Economy Minister Uladzimer Zinouski said on May 11 that about $3 billion provided by Beijing will come in the form of low-interest loans, and some $4 billion to Belarusian banks to finance commercial projects.

According to Zinouski, about $130 million is earmarked primarily for humanitarian projects, such as housing.

Zinouski did not elaborate on a time frame for paying back the loans.

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Minsk on May 10 for a three-day visit as part of a diplomatic tour that is also taking him to Russia and Kazakhstan to boost economic ties across Eurasia.

This is the first time that a Chinese head of state has visited Belarus in more than a decade.

On May 10, Lukashenka and Xi held talks after which nearly 20 bilateral agreements and memoranda were signed.

After meeting, Lukashenka said that the signed agreements would help boost bilateral ties in a variety of areas, including trade, technology exchanges, and the share of scientific-technical innovations.

On May 11, Lukashenka and Xi attended the opening of Belarusian-Chinese business forum in Minsk.

Lukashenka said at the ceremony that his country would help China "push forward its interests" in the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and soon, Kyrgyzstan.

Earlier on May 11, Xi awarded 15 Belarusian World War II veterans with the Chinese Medal of Peace.

Xi said at the award ceremony held in the Belarusian State Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Minsk that the Belarusian veterans, who fought against Japanese forces on Chinese territory, had "largely contributed to the defeat of fascism in the world."