Russia, Belarus Continue Talks on Compensation for Oil Tax Maneuver: Minister

Belarusian Economy Minister Dmitry Krutoi said on Sunday that his country is continuing “intense dialogue” with Russia on compensation following Russia’s tax maneuver in the oil sector, TASS news agency reported.

“While making a forecast [for the country’s socio-economic development] for 2019, we did not take into account possible compensation [from Russia] over the tax maneuver. We stick to the same position as regards the year 2020,” he said in an interview with the Belarus-1 television channel. “Talks are underway with Russian colleagues. So, with no final decisions on the oil sector and the gas price [for Belarus in 2020] available, we proceed from the most pessimistic forecasts.”

According to the minister, there are no grounds to refuse the socio-economic parameters set for the current year. It is applicable to the GDP forecast (which is planned at a level of four percent) and other macroeconomic parameters.

“If we ultimately manage to reach an agreement with the Russian colleagues [about compensation], it will be an additional bonus,” Krutoi said, adding that the expected compensation for the Belarusian economy’s losses in 2019 and 2020 is insignificant in the proportion to GDP, the budget, exports volume and other key macroeconomic parameters. “So, the government is taking certain steps. But so far, they should not be made public,” he noted.

Belarus and Russia are in talks on key issues of cooperation. The tax maneuver in Russia’s oil sector is among the stumbling blocks, as Russia has so far refused to pay compensation to its neighbor. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on March 1 that his country’s losses over the period of the tax maneuver have reached $3.4 billion since 2015.

As previously agreed, Minsk and Moscow are supposed to reach a deal before July 1 a pricing mechanism for natural gas for Belarus from January 1, 2020. The sides have agreed to set up a working group to discuss the future of integration.