Putin Takes First Trip Abroad Since Inauguration

Posted May 31st, 2012 at 12:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Belarus on his first trip out his country since being sworn in for a controversial third term earlier this month.

Mr. Putin is holding talks Thursday with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Russia and Belarus have long been close allies, but Russia's apparent attempts to take control of economic assets in Belarus have led to acrimony between the two countries.

Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan agreed late last year to create a Eurasian economic union by 2015, a European Union-style project initiated by Mr. Putin to bring together ex-Soviet states.

On Friday, Mr. Putin visits France and Germany.

He is expected to face tough questioning from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on Russia's reluctance to consistently back tough international action against the Syrian government for the violence in that country.

Russia has veto power as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

Mr. Putin was elected to a third presidential term in March. He served as president from 2000 to 2008, but term limits prevented him from running for a third straight term. He then became prime minister under former president Dmitry Medvedev.

A constitutional amendment has extended the president's time in office to two straight six-year terms, meaning Mr. Putin could stay in power until 2024 – an outlook many Russians find unsettling.

Mr. Putin voiced anti-U.S. rhetoric during his successful election campaign, accusing Washington of supporting mass protests against his possible 12-year rule. He refused to visit the United States earlier this month for the Group of Eight summit, a move widely seen as a snub.