Russia’s increasingly strained ties with Belarus have worsened still further, with Minsk imposing strict controls along their shared frontier despite customs and border union. The countries have been at odds for two years, with Belarus angry at being asked to pay more for Russian gas, and Moscow irritated at Minsk’s flirting with the European Union.
Matters took a turn for the worse when Russia banned imports of dairy products on health grounds. 93 per cent of Belarus’s milk and meat production have traditionally been sent to Russia, forming a large part of Minsk’s foreign income. On Sunday, President Alexander Lukashenko pulled out of a security summit in protest, something the Kremlin described as ‘hysterics’ and not the act of a true partner. Russia has often used trade restrictions to keep its neighbours in line. Moscow also froze a 700 million euro loan last month after Belarus failed to recognise the independence of the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.