President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ms Natalya Kochanova, Ms Valentina Matviyenko, friends,
I am happy to welcome the participants and organisers of the latest Forum of Russian and Belarusian Regions. For many years now, such forums have been making their significant contribution to the comprehensive development of cooperation between our two countries and helping to establish direct ties between regional and local officials, businesspeople, and representatives of Russian and Belarusian education, science, and culture.
Let me note that this year is significant for Russian-Belarusian relations. A few days ago, on June 25, we marked the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Russia and Belarus.
It is also symbolic that the forum events are held on the eve of Independence Day of the Republic of Belarus, which is celebrated on July 3. On this day in 1944, Minsk was liberated from Nazi occupants.
This is why I would like to sincerely congratulate our Belarusian friends on the upcoming state holiday. We will always remember that our peoples fought together during the Great Patriotic War to defend freedom and independence and to bring peace to all of Europe at the cost of enormous sacrifices.
And, most importantly, Russia and Belarus not only preserve, but multiply the glorious traditions of strong friendship and mutual assistance. We were able to achieve a truly exemplary level of strategic partnership and alliance, and the Union State is an example of truly mutually beneficial and equal integration.
Russia and Belarus continue to consistently step up cooperation in policy, trade, the economy, culture, and the humanitarian sphere on the principles of mutual respect, support, and consideration of each other’s interests.
In this sense, I would like to note that the Consulate General of the Russian Federation is opening in the city of Grodno where the Forum is taking place. I am sure that the expansion of the Russian diplomatic representation in Belarus will also contribute to the development of multifaceted interregional cooperation.
Every year the most topical issues of Russian-Belarusian cooperation are discussed at the Forum. This time, an important topic has been chosen: the role of interregional cooperation in deepening integration processes within the Union State.
It is my understanding that forum participants will suggest useful ideas and initiatives that will be used by our countries’ governments and agencies in their practical work to harmonise the economic policy of Russia and Belarus, and legislation in the sphere of trade, investment, finance, administrative regulation and strengthening of the union market in general.
Last November, the Supreme State Council of the Union State approved the main directions for implementing the provisions of the Union Treaty for 2021–2023 and 28 programmes designed to further encourage the development of economic integration between Russia and Belarus. New union programmes are already being drafted for the next three-year period starting in 2024.
All these decisions are aimed at creating equal economic conditions in our countries and forming a reliable basis for a common financial and energy market to function, as well as a common macroeconomic, technological, industrial, agricultural and digital policy.
Work to implement the 28 programmes is in full swing, going smoothly and as scheduled. Almost 40 percent of the events planned have already taken place.
Practical cooperation between Russian and Belarusian regions serves as a foundation for good neighbourly relations between our countries and as the locomotive of the closest and mutually beneficial economic cooperation.
Largely thanks to the active cooperation between regions last year, bilateral trade increased by more than a third, approaching $40 billion. Growth continued in January-April of this year.
Russia and Belarus are not only key trade and investment partners. Our country ranks first in terms of accumulated capital investments in the Belarusian economy: over $4 billion. About 2,500 companies with Russian participation operate in Belarus.
The unprecedented political and sanction pressure from the so-called “collective West” is pushing us to accelerate the unification processes. After all, together it is easier to minimise the damage from the illegal sanctions imposed, easier to launch the manufacturing of popular products, develop new competencies and expand cooperation with friendly countries.
In this context, we believe it is our priority joint task to launch high-potential programmes aimed at industrial and technological renewal. Russia is also ready to support a number of Belarusian investment projects to create new production facilities and modernise existing ones in Belarus and Russia.
Of particular importance is the further expansion of cooperation in the high-tech sector, where we already have several success stories. This year, Rosatom plans to complete the construction of a nuclear power plant in the Grodno Region of Belarus. Belarusian specialists will participate in the construction of Roscosmos facilities at Vostochny space centre in the Amur Region.
Russia and Belarus certainly intend to develop cooperation in agriculture and in supplying fertilisers and food to world markets. During a recent meeting with President Alexander Lukashenko in St Petersburg, we had a lengthy discussion on this score; in particular, we agreed to use the transshipment capabilities of the Russian Baltic Sea terminal for the export of Belarusian goods to foreign markets.
Finally, regions of our countries will continue to focus on strengthening their traditionally close humanitarian contacts, and will greatly contribute to the development of cultural, educational, tourist and sports exchanges.
About 12,000 students from Belarus currently study at Russian educational institutions. An increasing number of Belarusian students are being educated at Russian universities with state grants.
Mutual days of culture are regularly held in Russia and Belarus. In particular, the Union State and region-to-region cooperation programmes involve tours of popular groups and musicians, as well as theatre, music and film festivals. Every year, Belarus hosts the Slavyansky Bazar International Art Festival in Vitebsk, and Russian artists always take part in it. Talented Russians and Belarusians are awarded Union State prizes in literature and art, science and technology.
In conclusion, I would like to express confidence that the work of the current Forum of Russian and Belarusian Regions will serve to further strengthen bilateral strategic cooperation in the interests of the fraternal peoples of Russia and Belarus, and wish the organisers and participants good luck and all the best.