Updated at 18:18,16-07-2018

Belarus asks Russia for help against US 'aggression'

Hurriyet Daily News

Belarus on Monday called the latest sanctions imposed by the United States targeting manufacturing an "act of aggression" and turned to its neighbor Russia for help.

"The US sanctions are an act of aggression against the Belarusian people, a blow to the economy of our country and all sectors tied to cooperation with Russia," Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich said at a meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The United States imposed sanctions on August 11 which target four state-controlled manufacturers in the Belneftekhim conglomerate, one of Belarus' top exporters.

They have been pursued because of a crackdown in Belarus on protestors and activists opposed to the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko, many of whom have been sentenced to years of jail time.

"To a certain extent, this is a challenge to the allied state," Myasnikovich said. "Russia has always supported Belarus, and a unified position will make our relationship even stronger."

"A friend in need is a friend indeed," Myasnikovich said.

Russia and Belarus are members of a customs union and also a so-called "unified state" that brings their cabinets together for joint meetings. Putin earlier this month unexpectedly called for the unification of the two states.

Putin promised that Belarus will be able to buy gas at a lower coefficient starting next year, but added that "it is direct help but not a gift" to Belarus.

As Russian companies "widen their opportunities" in Belarus, they are ready to give something in return, the Russian premier said.

"I am sure that [sanctions] can never be effective, usually they have exactly the opposite effect to what those imposing them want," Putin said.

Belarus is battling an economic crisis and is facing pressure from the West to free political prisoners and reform its outdated economy.

This summer Belarus has agreed to privatize $7.5 billion in state assets in the next three years to meet the terms of a Russian-backed assistance package, under which it is due to receive $3 billion in loans over three years.