Russian, Belarus Presidents Praise Bilateral Ties

Posted May 31st, 2012 at 5:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Belarus on his first foreign trip since being sworn in for a controversial third term earlier this month.

Before departing for Germany and France, President Putin is expected to discuss Russia-Belarus ties with Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko who greeted Mr. Putin at the airport in Minsk.

American political analyst Donald Jensen says Mr. Putin's meeting with the authoritarian leader is a snub to Washington, which along with the European Union has condemned Minsk's human rights policies. Western leaders also have accused Mr. Putin of authoritarian leanings and lingering imperial nostalgia.

In a blog on the VOA Russian web site, Jensen wrote that “although Putin holds Lukashenko's fate in his grasp, elsewhere in the East, Russia confronts serious obstacles to achieving permanent pre-eminence.” As examples, he cites Ukraine's and central Asian countries' resistance to overdependence on Moscow.

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

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.

Mr. Putin travels to Germany and France on Friday.

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.

Mr. Putin was elected to a third presidential term in March after serving four years as prime minister.

He voiced anti-U.S. rhetoric during his 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 also widely seen as a snub.