Tension grows between Minsk and Kremlin over economic issues
Last week, with a reference to a high ranking source in the Russian Energy industry, Reuters reported that Russian oil supplies to Belarus were cut by about 40% not due to economic, but political reasons, in particular, due to rapprochement between Minsk and the West. Earlier, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dvorkovich explained the possible reduction in oil supplies by overdue payments by Minsk for the supplied Russian gas. Yet the Belarusian government has not publicly responded to such significant cuts in oil supplies, regardless of possible substantial budgetary losses. It is worth noting that tension is growing between Belarus and Russia over economic issues. Along with the cuts in oil supply, tension is growing in the gas sector and dairy supplies. Economic tensions between Belarus and Russia are likely to be due to the redistribution of resources amid reduced subsidies from Russia and restrictions on Belarusian products on the Russian market.
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.