The theme of our today's meeting is preparedness of the people's economy for the functioning in winter period and provision of the country with energy resources, their consumption by the population.
Another point: I would like to hear comprehensible answers on the issue of paying the salary and wage debts in our country.
I am not going to conceal that the issue on preparedness of the people's economy to function in winter period is being discussed in the context of unpleasant incidents with the gas supplies from the Russian Federation. Without the slightest grounds, and it is already known to the public and mass media, the gas company Gasprom has reduced natural gas supplies to our republic by 50 per cent, allegedly because of the shortage of gas to be supplied to Germany, Denmark and other European countries.
The issue, of course, is an emotional one. In the years of the Great Patriotic War, being together on the same side of the frontline, we were rotting in the trenches together with Russians, not with Germans or any other nationals. What's more, those, against whom the leaders of Russia are fighting today so much, do not hold their sabbaths in Belarus. Nor did Russia raise any clams to us on the extradition of individual terrorists.
We are being told: in case our conditions are not met, we'll supply gas to Lithuania, Latvia. Well, it's clear: that's how they pay for our position on Kaliningrad issue, on the Russians, on the Russian people. Perhaps, something was done wrong by us regarding Russia in this very important humanitarian issue. However, if the leadership of Russia wants to push us to confrontation with the Russian society and the Russian people, someone, in the Kremlin, falls into error. Should we even die, nobody in Belarus will raise hand against Russian men, they are our people.
We are being warned: we'll be making our supplies to Western Europe across Ukraine. Well, I should have pursued the same policy that Leonid Kuchma and Ukraine's leaders pursued all these years. Namely, I should have flirted with Russia wanting at the same time to accede to EU, NATO and to have the sort of relationship with the USA they have now. It seems our policy might not have been as attractive as the Ukrainian one.
It's an emotional part of the issue. There is another part that the Russian Federation can by right evoke today: on payments for consumed energy carries, for gas first of all.
Let us look at this side too. Do we pay worse than others do? Georgia today has about USD 150 million debt for gas supplies, Ukraine has about three billion dollars debt. Belarus today effects 100 per cent of current payments. We have USD 190 million of debt for gas consumption in the past years, but one must bear in mind that in constructing by Gasprom a gas pipeline "Yamal-Europe" we provided benefits to Gasprom totaling USD 175 million. That is to say, our debt to Gasprom and the benefits provided to Gasprom are practically equal. Thus, Belarus does not owe anything to anybody. It owes nothing.
If Russia's leadership insists on our paying USD 200 million to Gasprom we will do it. We will take this money from the people who were rotting together with Russians in the trenches during the Great Patriotic War, we will take it from 200 thousand military servicemen, mainly Russians, who remained in Belarus after the break-up of the USSR, we will take it from the funds allocated for the construction of Chernobyl rehabilitation centers, for instance from the Republican Center of Radiation Medicine in Gomel, from the district hospital in Kostyukovichi which is being constructed to save people's lives.
A question arises - what's the matter then? I want the people to understand me. I will give a straightforward answer. It is a political decision by the Kremlin. It is time to tell you the truth. An incredible pressure has been exerted recently, including the pressure on myself. They demanded from me: "If you don't give up the property, the conversation will be different." And they demanded to privatize immediately the "Beltransgas," i.e. the pipelines which remained in Belarus from the Soviet Union; to immediately turn them joint stock and to give the shares to "Gasprom." I answered "this is national property, providing national security and the conditions for the country and its people to exist." For this reason, we will privatize and turn the entities joint stock in accordance with our legislation; we will not take any hasty decisions.
We are not violating any agreements, including those on joint-stockization of "Beltransgas" and establishment of the joint venture. But to do it, a law should be adopted. Pressure on Belarus and all the attempts to make us "stand still" are unacceptable. Our people withstood more than that in its history. They will withstand this kind of onrush too. I want Russians and Belarusians to understand that there is no economics here, but rather unprecedented pressure on our country. This is not the first case.
The conclusion is: I do not see any catastrophe in providing the country with energy resources, absolutely not. So, if we say that something happened somewhere, it's a result of the bungling by our government and our governors.
First. The current consumption of gas should be paid 100 per cent.
Second. Old debts must be paid within the next year. If Russia demands not 200 but 300 million dollars, let it have 300 million. They are poor today. They are beggars, having such a price for oil and gas. Even in Soviet time they did not have such incomes. These are fantastic incomes. O.K. then, they are beggars and poor, give this money to them. Never borrow from them any more, better ask the Arab countries, the West, the USA - they will help us, whatever the relations between us might be. I categorically forbid holding talks with the Russian Federation on any borrowings. Borrow nothing from them.
Third. To demand from Gasprom to return us the benefits provided to them during the construction of Yamal-Europe gas pipeline. Since they do not follow the agreements reached with our country, we too have the right to deviate from the decisions that were taken in the past years, when constructing the gas pipeline.
Fourth. To demand immediately from the Russian Federation government to return us USD 500 million, which we had lost because of the indirect taxes problem being unsettled. It was recognized by the Russian Federation. So the money must be returned to us. It is an absurd thing, when Belarus is put in worse conditions in trade than Latvia. What kind of a union state one can speak about in this case?
Fifth, Russia must comply with interstate agreements.
In 1994, before starting the construction of Yamal-Europe gas pipeline across Belarus, an agreement was signed which provided that Russia should supply us as early as next year 33 billion of cubic meters of gas. At present, they deliver to us 10-11 billion and offer the same amount for the next year. All the rest, which is more than 10-11 billion, is offered at commercial prices.
Sixth, which proceeds from the above. Russia must fulfill the agreements on equal conditions for economic entities of both countries, including establishment of equal prices for gas.
Seventh. If the Russian Federation is unwilling to fulfill the agreements reached, we must take from the Russian Federation the same payments for transit as are applied by Poland, Austria, Slovakia and soon. Today the cost of transit of the Russian gas across Belarus is 4-5 times cheaper than across Ukraine. Not to mention the Western states.
Now, what is most important. It is necessary to study immediately the alternative variants of energy supplies to Belarus. We cannot tolerate any longer such a dependency and humiliation from one state.
Finally, Belarusians will never be left without heating, no matter what relations we may have no matter with whom. It will be warm and cozy in our homes, in our families, just as in the past years.
Yet, I want the government, the governors, the whole vertical line of authorities, the managers of enterprises to know for sure: from tomorrow, we will introduce a harsh regime of economy. The essence is as follows: if you need energy resources, if you need natural gas, just pay and take. If you have nothing to pay with, do not take. We will cover 100 per cent of the needs for energy resources, but providing the complete payment.
We have survived all the cataclysms with the growing prices for energy carriers. We were crying and moaning - ah, the oil prices will reach the world level and we will die. We have not died! Today we do buy oil and other energy carries at world prices. We have to be ready to pay world prices for gas. In doing so, we will lose additionally 150-200 million dollars. Is it a great sum of money for the whole country? We consolidate about 5 billion dollars to all the kinds of budgets. Can there be any question about it? It is to you Gennady Vasilyevich (Prime Minister) and to the Government that I address my question. This money must be found and given to Russia. We must pay at world prices and present an account to the Russian Federation for the services we render - at the customs, at the border defence, protection of the Russian Federation - to be paid at world prices.
I wish to emphasize again. Maybe, we make up 3 per cent of the Russia's economy, maybe 5 per cent, nobody has ever counted. Maybe, we are much smaller than Russia is. But we have here a proud and independent people who will not allow anyone to kick it, whether from the West, or from the East.