Moscow will not aggravate relations with Minsk over oil in coming months
President Vladimir Putin has proposed to oblige the Belarusian oil refineries to use Russian infrastructure to transport oil products. Belarus has consistently refused to redirect the export of petrochemicals from the Baltic to Russian ports, despite discounts offered by the Russian railway. In addition to losing some economic benefits, Minsk could be refusing due to political risks, such as growing dependence on the Kremlin. Disagreements over the supply of Russian oil to Belarus are likely to persist due to Russia’s firm determination to develop its ports.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.