The Kremlin has absolutely no plan or interest in “swallowing” Belarus, Russian President Vladimir Putin told journalists on Monday, following talks with President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk. Moscow only seeks further economic integration with its neighbor and closest ally, and those who say otherwise are simply seeking to stall this process, the Russian leader added.
“Russia has no interest in swallowing anyone,” Putin said, adding that “it is simply not viable.” Russia’s discussions with Belarus, which have intensified recently, have nothing to do with a potential takeover, the Russian leader explained. “It is about coordinating economic policies, as is done in many other integration associations,” he said.
“Everything else is nonsense,” Putin maintained, adding that all the claims about the potential “swallowing-up” come from “ill-wishers seeking to stall our integration process.” Those making such claims simply do not want to be faced with “effective and dangerous” competitors on the world markets, the president said.
On Monday, the two leaders discussed tariff policies in the energy sector, according to the Russian media. Russia and Belarus have “different levels of subsidies … in various fields of economic activity,” Putin said, adding that it was “important” to work out some common principles.
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Western media outlets and some Western officials have been claiming that Russia supposedly harbors plans to absorb Belarus for quite some time. The speculation further intensified amid Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine, which began in late February.
Germany’s DW broadcaster wondered in September if Russia would “absorb Belarus” while the Washington Post claimed as early as in March that “Russia has all but swallowed up Belarus.” In June, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda called on NATO to be “united and decisive” about resisting Russia’s alleged attempts to “swallow Belarus.”