Lukashenko hits out at Putin’s Russia after nuclear power plant issues

Cracks appear to have emerged in the relations between Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, as the leader of the eastern European nation publicly called out Russia.

The Belarusian leader said this week works have ended at the nuclear facility near the city of Astravets in the north-western region of Grodno.

The nuclear power station, the only one in Belarus following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, was built by Atomstroyexport, the nuclear equipment exporter branch of the Russian nuclear corporation Rosatom.

In February 2009, Moscow agreed to an £8.22billion ($10bn) loan for the construction of the plant, to be repaid by Belarus from 2021 over the next 25 years.

The first energy unit was connected to the country’s power grid in November 2020, but its operations were suspended several times for repairs.

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The second unit was finalised in May, but the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Belarus issued a licence for its industrial operation several months later, on October 24.

Attributing the delays experienced at the plant to Russia, Lukashenko said: “The commissioning timeframes of the nuclear power plant have slightly shifted because of the Russian side.

“Naturally, under the contract, we raised the issue of compensation to them. There is no need to hide it.

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“There was nothing extraordinary there. But such questions were raised due to the fact that the deadlines for commissioning of the plant were violated, and the Russian side is responsible for it.

“The Russian side offered compensation options in response. They also offered us options on the price of fresh nuclear fuel, as for Russians, as for their stations. And a warranty period of five years [for the main components].

“We, of course, should not unnecessarily strain the Russians: we had enough electricity and still have enough, but an agreement is an agreement.”

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Lukashenko is Putin’s biggest ally in Europe. While Belarusian troops haven’t joined the war in Ukraine, the country’s president facilitated the operations against the war-torn eastern European country by allowing Russian forces to launch the invasion from Belarus.

Earlier this week, the Belarusian leader also commented on the course of the war in Ukraine, saying Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky needed to sit down for peace talks as the conflict had come to a stalemate.

He said: “There are enough problems on both sides and in general the situation is now seriously stalemate: no one can do anything and substantively strengthen or advance their position. They’re there head-to-head, to the death, entrenched. People are dying.”

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