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Lukashenko wants more transparency in relations with Russia

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Thursday he would like to see dealings between Belarus and Russia become clearer and more transparent. "We would like more clarity and transparency in these relations. For us it is very important at this stage. If someone in Russia says there have appeared certain tendencies in Belarus to move away from Russia, spit in his eye. We don't see a future without Russia, we are doomed to live together," he said. The Belarusian leader, meeting in Minsk with the governor of Russia's Leningrad Region, Valery Serdyukov, noted a number of existing problems in bilateral ties. "The main problem... is the financial-economic crisis, although it was not created by either Belarus or Russia. You [Russia] have started closing markets," Lukashenko said. He said that if 80% of markets close, including Russia's, then export-oriented economies like Belarus's will find it very hard. On Tuesday, Lukashenko accused Russia of failing to fulfill bilateral economic agreements - particularly on natural gas deliveries - and called on Belarusian officials to "stop kneeling in Russian offices." "As regards Russia, there's not exactly fair treatment here, and I'm not afraid to announce it publicly. We agreed that we will pay $150 for gas each quarter. And then other people come and say it's a bit too little. What we agreed is not getting anywhere," Lukashenko said during a visit to the Gomel Region. Russian Ambassador to Minsk Alexander Surikov said in February the price of Russian natural gas for Belarus would average $150 per 1,000 cu m in 2009, adding that everything would depend on crude and oil derivatives prices. However, Russian energy giant Gazprom denied in March that any agreement had been reached on an "average" price for gas deliveries in 2009 or that the price would be linked to world oil prices.

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