Izvestia: Putin, Lukashenko agree on new $1.5-bln loan
Belarus will be getting a $1.5-bln loan from Russia. Part of this money will go to refinancing old debts, the Kremlin said following a meeting between both leaders in Sochi. That said, Minsk owes Moscow $270 mln for gas alone. Russia has provided and will continue to support the Belarusian economy, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted. Financial assistance will also help to strengthen trade between the two countries during the coronavirus crisis and Minsk will also be the first to receive the Russian vaccine against COVID-19, Izvestia writes.
At the meeting, Vladimir Putin noted that Moscow remains committed to all general agreements and views the Belarus as its closest ally. Moscow will also provide Minsk with a state loan of $1.5 bln during this difficult period. The former Soviet republic will also become the first country to receive a Russian vaccine against coronavirus infection, Putin confirmed.
The Sochi summit is a signal, especially to Western countries, that Moscow and Minsk won’t let the situation in Belarus and the post-Soviet space as a whole destabilize, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, Eurasian integration and Relations with Compatriots Viktor Vodolatsky told the newspaper. “What is happening on the territory of Belarus today is the scenario that was used in Ukraine. With a frequency of five to six years, new roadmaps are being prepared to sway the situation in the CIS,” Vodolatsky said.
According to political scientist Vladimir Evseyev, a key subject topping the talks between the two presidents is the question of who would be a potential successor to Alexander Lukashenko. This most likely remained behind the scenes. “It is important for Moscow not to preserve the incumbent president of Belarus, the main thing is to ensure the peaceful transit of power after constitutional reform in the republic. The successor is deliberately being kept a secret so as not to set the West against him ahead of time. Russia has many questions for Lukashenko personally, and they mainly concern the oil and gas sector. I think that after the talks between the two leaders, the disputes on this topic between Moscow and Minsk should subside,” the expert told Izvestia.
Kommersant: With prisoner swap looming, Donbass republics demand changes in Ukrainian legislation
Kiev announced an upcoming imminent prisoner exchange with the self-proclaimed republics of Donbass. Andrey Yermak, President Zelensky’s chief of staff, said there are about a hundred people listed for both sides. At the same time, Donetsk called these statements nothing more than “hot air” and made it clear that the prospect of new swaps depends on whether amendments will be made to Ukraine’s law on local elections. The republics want that legislation to greenlight elections in the zones not controlled by Kiev. However, Ukrainian politicians will almost certainly not agree to this, which once again drives the negotiations into a dead end, Kommersant writes.
Yermak said that very soon Kiev intends to conduct a prisoner swap with both Donbass republics. Although, Donetsk and Lugansk themselves are wary about Kiev’s assurance that the exchange will take place in the near future. Natalia Nikonorova, the DPR’s permanent representative in the trilateral contact group, directly linked the exchange with the need to amend the recently adopted resolution by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on local elections.
Konstantin Skorkin, a journalist with the Carnegie Moscow Center, says that now the negotiations between Moscow and Kiev are a “game of ping-pong”, which means that one should not expect a quick exchange. “[Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian Presidential Executive Office Dmitry] Kozak said that an agreement had been reached on changing the Rada’s resolution on local elections. Yermak denied this agreement. Now the Donetsk People’s Republic is linking the possibility of a swap with a change in the wording of the elections. The negotiations are at an impasse, and no one is making concessions,” he told Kommersant. / tass