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‘Belarus needs to pull itself by its bootstraps’: Russia

Cash-strapped Belarus has only itself to rely upon in the crisis as traditional sponsor Russia is no longer willing to support its economy, a high-ranking official in Moscow said on Tuesday.

“You need to pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” a high-ranking Russian official told reporters.

“They have lived at our expense long enough,” the official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“It is true that Russia in not dying to uncontrollably pump additional financial and other resources” into Belarus, he said, adding that any aid programmes should be transparent and market-based.

Belarus’s increasingly isolated leader Alexander Lukashenko is currently battling a currency crisis at home as analysts say his country’s outdated economic model is no longer sustainable and needs urgent reform.

Moscow has for years supported Belarus by selling it energy on the cheap but over the past years the outspoken Lukashenko has alienated Russia with his often unpredictable policies.

Belarus hopes to receive a $3 billion loan from a Moscow-led economic union of ex-Soviet states but Russia said last week its neighbour would have to wait at least until next month before it receives any bailout loan.

Analysts have said Russia wants to use Belarus’s precarious situation to try to win control of its key state assets.

Following Lukashenko’s crackdown on protesters after his controversial re-election in December, the West slapped sanctions on Belarus. Moscow however said such a move was not “conducive to reform.”