It looks as if relations between Belarus and Russia are becoming increasingly strained, as reports come through that no agreement has been reached on the future of gas prices.
Although there has been no official announement yet on the outcome of the talks, Reuters are reporting that the talks went so badly that Lukashenko decided to skip the evening’s planned entertainment:
He returned to Minsk, skipping a Kremlin dinner and a planned trip to an ice-hockey match.
Presumably, he didn’t get to do any Christmas shopping, either.
Anyway, how did this dispute come about? Russia are insisting that Belarus pays for its gas supplies at the full market rate, which would be more than double, and possibly even four times as much as Belarus currently pays. Russia, in its generosity has agreed to waive the increase, but only if Belarus agrees to sell its gas distribution network, Beltransgas, for $4 billion.
Where this leaves the prospect of political union between Russia and Belarus, I don’t know.
It should, though, act as a warning to those authoritarian leaders who want to cosy up to Russia. Freindship means very little to the Kremlin when it comes to selling gas these days.