Spuds 'N Speculation: Lukashenka Gifts Potatoes To Putin Amid Integration Rumors
By RFE/RL's Russian Service December 30, 2018
Four bags of potatoes and a tub of lard. That's what Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka reportedly handed over to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, as a Christmas present.
These were no ordinary potatoes, however, assured Lukashenka's spokesperson.
The spuds came from Lukashenka's very own garden and were "elite varieties," perfect for a range of dishes, Natalia Eismont was quoted as saying on December 29 by Belarusian media.
No word about the lard.
The two leaders met in the Kremlin on December 29 to try to resolve an energy pricing dispute, the second such meeting this week.
Earlier this year, Russia changed its tax system in a way that left Belarus paying significantly more for Russian oil and gas.
Belarus has criticized the change, but Moscow maintained that Minsk was still paying less than other countries.
"I made a joke that we are sick and tired of each other. But we will probably never grow tired of each other because there are issues that need to be discussed. It's our work," Lukashenka was quoted as saying by Interfax as the two leaders headed into their December 29 meeting.
Commentators say Moscow is increasing pressure on Belarus for further integration under a 1999 union treaty.
The Kremlin on December 29 rejected as "unsupported" statements that there are plans to incorporate Belarus into Russia.
"Of course, we are not talking about any joining, etc. It's more likely movement towards each other. It's not movement in one direction," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by Interfax as saying on December 29.
Earlier this month, Lukashenka, who has relied on loans and cheap energy from Russia to keep Belarus's state-controlled economy afloat, accused some politicians in Russia of proposing to make Belarus part of Russia, plans he said he would stop.
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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