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18.12.2013

Lukashenka leaves for Russia's coastal resort of Sochi 53

12:17, — Politics
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Lukashenka leaves for Russia's coastal resort of Sochi

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has left for Russia's Black Sea coastal resort of Sochi, the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics, allegedly to inspect Belarusian facilities.

At the invitation of Russian President Vladimi Putin, Mr. Lukashenka will familiarize himself with Sochi's Olympic infrastructure and assess the readiness of Belarusian facilities for the Olympic Games, according to the Belarusian leader's press office.

The press office does not say when Mr. Lukashenka will arrive in Sochi and when he will come back. He will probably return after meetings of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council and the Supreme State Council of the Belarusian-Russian Union State, which will be held in Moscow on December 24 and 25.

According to the Kremlin's press office, the presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan will meet on December 24 to discuss issues relating to integration between their countries as members of a customs unions and part of a common economic zone, and also preparations for establishing the Eurasian Economic Union on January 1, 2015. Also under discussion will be "roadmaps" for Armenia and Kyrgyzstan to join the "Eurasian integration entities."

The press office says nothing about the agenda of the meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State. However, it is known that Messrs. Lukashenka and Putin discussed it during a telephone conversation on Monday.

The amount of Russian oil to be supplied to Belarus in 2014 is likely to top the agenda of the meeting. Belarus asks Russia to supply 23 million to 23.5 million tons of oil to it next year and to sign a supply contract for the whole year, but Moscow so far has expressed readiness to export only 21 million tons of oil to Belarus, including 5.75 million tons in the first quarter.

Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak said on December 17 that Russia and Belarus were discussing the supply of oil only in the first half of 2014.

Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said last week that whether or not Moscow and Minsk would formally agree on how much Russian crude oil would be supplied to Belarus in 2014 would depend on the "entire set" of bilateral relations.

Mr. Lukashenka is in the habit of visiting Sochi several times a year to bathe on its beaches, ski on its slopes and play ice hockey. His stays at the resort are usually reported as "working visits" combined with "brief vacations" and last many days.

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