Russia has fulfilled all its obligations for Belarus as well as Putin’s extra orders, Russian Ambassador Mikhail Babich said in an interview with TV station Rossiya 24.
According to him, in 2018 Russia delivered almost 19,000 cubic metres of gas with zeroed duty and 18 mln tons of oil; trade tariff ompensations were paid; access to the Russian market of food products was provided; the Astravets NPP is being constructed at the expense of the Russian loan.
Commodities and funds that were allocated to Belarus come upon Russia, the envoy stressed. Although Moscow was going through crises, it still found opportunities to lend assistance to the brotherly state, he said.
“But now our partners have flipped over the question about new aspects of the integration – they want equal conditions for economic entities. But the legal systems should be harmonized. Therefore, a working group that will work on access to equal economic conditions is being established,” Mikhail Babich said.
“Economically, it is is much more profitable for Belarus to be in the Union State, than in the Eurasian Economic Union. Military security also country. And what comes first is that the Eurasian Union is an economic union. But the Union State also means political integration. And it is very important for the two brotherly Slavic countries that have common territory, a common history and culture, a common language. Let me remind you that Belarus is the only country in the world where Russian, on par with the national Belarusian language, is a state language. We really appreciate it and believe that the Union State format comes up to the best expectations of our citizens,” the diplomat said.
Babich seemed to be slightly ironic when answering the question about Belarus’ searching for ‘alternative’ oil.
“My answer may surprise you, but if our partners find oil cheaper than Russia’s they will earn more, which we cannot but be excited about. Then they will earn more and be able to solve their social and economic tasks, which will be in the interests of both the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation,” he explained.
At the end of 2018, the Belarusian-Russian relations significantly deteriorated. In late December there were some meetings of Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader pressed for ‘further integration’ while his Belarusian counterpart insisted on reducing gas prices and getting compensation for the tax maneuver. The talks seem to have ended in deadlock.
Mikhail Babich, 49, is from Ryazan, he served in the Airborne Forces and the KGB, then in the FSB. From 1995 to 1998 he was the head of the corporation Antey in Moscow, which develops and manufactures weapons for the air defense forces. From November 2002 to February 2003, he headed the government of the Chechen Republic.
While working for Rosmyasomoltorg state-run company and as vice-governor of Ivanovo region, he was involved in a financial fraud scandal. According to Russian media, in 2001 the General Prosecutor’s Office even authorized the arrest, but all things came right for him in the end. Analysts describe Babich as an energetic, tough-talk and and decisive person, who has the presidential confidence as well as good friends in the secret services.
After the dismissal of Mikhail Zurabov from the post of Russia’s Ambassador in Kyiv in July 2016, the Babich’s appointment was considered. However, the Ukrainian side opposed it. Among the reasons was the fact that in 2014 Babich supported the annexation of Crimea. Then the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that ‘the question was removed from the agenda at the initiative of the Ukrainian side’.
Babich, who is connected with the Soviet KGB and the Russian FSB, could become the ‘ambassador of war’, that he is a ‘professional saboteur’ and a ‘classic candidate for the Kremlin to work with separatists in Donbas to organize force operations’, Ukrainian experts believe. According to some Russian media outlets, this appointment is indicative of Moscow’s holding a course for the takeover of Belarus.