Russo-Belarusian gas and oil dispute unlikely to end soon
In December 2016, Belarus made an advance payment in repayment of the debt for natural gas supplies in 2016. The debt emerged because Belarus paid a lower price for the natural gas supply as compared with the contract price (USD 136.9 per 1000 cubic metres). In response, Russia unilaterally cut oil supplies as of July 2016, from 2 to 1.2 million tons of oil per month. Nevertheless, Russia is unlikely to resume oil supplies in full volume before the end of 2016. Belarus is unable to repay the debt for gas in full without additional borrowing. In order to solve the problem, the Finance Ministry and the National Bank are likely to issue foreign currency bonds worth at least USD 350 million.
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.