Belarus has almost completed talks on borrowing $600 million from China, an amount which would be used to repay debts to Russia, Belarusian Deputy Finance Minister Andrey Byalkavets said, according to BelTA news agency.
“We planned to get another loan from Russia, but we postponed the issue, since we have found an alternative with our Chinese partners,” Byalkavets said on Tuesday.
Byalkavets’s statement came weeks after Finance Minister Maksim Ermalovich said that his country had been seeking to borrow money from a country other than Russia due to mounting differences in bilateral relations.
Russia has been Belarus’s main lender for many years, and Minsk still owes Moscow large sums of money.
Belarus’ economy remains largely inefficient, and its external debt increased by $3.4 billion from July 2016 to October, while budget revenues amount to $10 billion.
Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said in April that Moscow was ready to give Belarus a loan, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov contradicted that statement, saying that the loan request made by Minsk in February was still under discussion.
In June, Siluanov said Moscow would lend more money to Belarus only after the two countries agree on furthering integration within so-called Russia-Belarus Union, which has mainly existed only on paper since the 1990s.
At the beginning of the year, Russian President Vladimir Putin started talking about deeper integration between Russia and Belarus.
In recent months, Putin and his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, have held several rounds of talks on the integration, with the latter stressing that the partnership should be equal.