Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka says he does not plan to ask for money from Russia when he holds talks in Moscow with President Vladimir Putin on February 22.
Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov on February 18 confirmed the meeting of the two leaders, saying he expects a “quite extensive” discussion on issues ranging from bilateral relations to international issues.
One thing that won’t be on the agenda, Lukashenka said at a meeting with the State Secretary of the Russia-Belarus Union state, Grigory Rapota, is a request from Minsk for money.
“As is usually the case in Russia, some [people may] highjack the agenda and [say] Lukashenka is on his way to ask for $3 billion [from Russia]. No, I am not traveling there to ask for anything,” Lukashenka said, adding that there were no outstanding issues between the two countries.
In recent years, Russia has pressured Belarus through energy price increases, which many considered a lever to push Minsk to complete a 20-year-old agreement to form a union state.
Until last summer, Lukashenka, who has been in power for 26 years, has openly maintained his nation’s independence, publicly saying his nation is ready to fight for its independence by all possible means.
However, the situation changed after Russia took Lukashenka’s side when tens of thousands of Belarusians poured into the streets on almost a daily basis to demand Lukashenka’s resignation, saying an August 9 presidential election that handed the authoritarian leader a sixth term was rigged.
In September, Lukashenka traveled to the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where he reached an agreement with Putin on a $1.5 billion loan as Belarus’ economy reeled from the protests.