Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka says he hopes the settlement of an energy dispute with Russia can ease tensions with Moscow and bring stability to his own country, which has been hit by a wave of street demonstrations.
"We see what's happening around us, and we just want to preserve the stability of Russia and Belarus," Lukashenka said on April 3.
The breakthrough in the dispute came after talks between Lukashenka and Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg.
Putin said government officials would finalize the details of the settlement in 10 days and added that a road map had been agreed for energy cooperation up to 2020.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said the deal means Belarus would gradually pay off a $726 million debt for Russian gas supplies in exchange for Russia restarting oil shipments to Belarus.
Dvorkovich said Russia will renew oil supplies to Belarus of 24 million tons a year. Russia's Gazprom will give Belarus discounts on gas supplies in 2018 and 2019.
Lukashenka in recent months has been moving his country toward the West and has accused Moscow of violating treaties and using its position as an energy supplier to "grab us by the throat."
Minsk has said Russia at one point more than doubled the price it charged Belarus for gas, which worsened an economic downturn in Belarus.
The economic troubles helped ignite a wave of protests against Lukashenka, who has ruled Belarus for nearly 25 years.
Lukashenka’s suppression of street demonstrations has heightened risks that the European Union could reimpose sanctions that were mostly lifted a year ago. Russia is also being criticized internationally for its crackdown on street protests.
"There are too few quiet, calm spots on the planet still left. So we agreed on joint measures to preserve the security of our states," Lukashenka said.
"Today, we have no differences remaining," Putin told a joint news conference. “We will move ahead. We will strengthen our relations within the framework of the union state.”
The meeting occurred in St. Petersburg on a day when a suspected terrorist bomb ripped through a city subway car, killing at least 11 people and injuring 51.
With reporting by AP and Reuters