Moscow grants $ 500 million loan to isolated Belarus
Russia has transferred the second tranche of a billion dollar loan to Belarus, as the isolated country prepares to be hit by a new round of Western sanctions.
The Belarusian finance ministry said on Wednesday it had received the payment of $ 500 million from Moscow – the second installment of a $ 1 billion financing plan the two countries agreed to last year while the country was in plagued by nationwide protests following Alexander Lukashenko’s brutal crackdown on protesters. .
Russia is a crucial supporter of the Lukashenko regime and Minsk’s most important ally and financier.
Moscow’s latest funding package, which also included support for Belarus’s state development bank, was seen as a financial lifeline when it was approved last September. Although analysts Told The Moscow Times would do little to address Minsk’s long-term financial woes, which have been accentuated by months of protest, European sanctions and an exodus of international investors.
EU leaders agreed last week to ban the Belarusian national airline from operating in EU airspace and urged EU-based airlines to avoid overflights of Belarusian territory , following the forced hijacking by Lukashenko of a Ryanair flight to Stop Lithuanian-based dissident journalist Roman Protasevich.
A new round of tougher sanctions is currently in the works, which could target the country’s vital export industries – fertilizers, potash and energy. The EU imported € 1.2 billion ($ 1.5 billion) in chemicals from Belarus last year and € 1 billion ($ 1.3 billion) in energy products.
The EU is also committed to to open a package of three billion euros ($ 3.7 billion) of loans and grants to a “future democratic Belarus”, if Lukashenko leaves power.
The strongman leader paid a high-level visit to Sochi last weekend, meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in support of the dramatic events that had left Lukashenko even more isolated on the world stage.
Following last year’s contested elections, in which Lukashenko won a landslide victory, several Western countries decided to recognize opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya as the legitimate winner of the ballot and severed relations with Lukashenko , in power since 1994.