Russian, Belarusian Presidents Praise Bilateral Ties

Posted May 31st, 2012 at 8:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Aleksander Lukashenko have praised their close ties during Mr. Putin's first foreign trip abroad since being sworn in for a controversial third term earlier this month.

Mr. Lukashenko met the Russian president at the Minsk airport Thursday and whisked him to his private residence outside Belarus capital for bilateral talks.

After the meeting, Mr. Putin told reporters that the very fact he has made his first foreign trip to “brotherly Belarus” reflects the special nature of their relations.

He also promised to grant Belarus more loan money from a regional fund.

“We have decided to grant the next, the third one, loan tranche to Belarus from the Eurasian Economic Community's anti-crisis fund and we will start thorough talks on the fourth tranche. We have stated with satisfaction that it is well-timed, viable and is possible to do taking into consideration the positive dynamic which the Belarus economy is gaining.”

Mr. Lukashenko said the two countries have a great future and he thanked Russia for cooperation in joint projects, insluding the construiction of a nuclear power plant.

“You have supported us in building a nuclear plant in Belarus. These are high technologies, we need to activate this sphere in order to build the most modern, the best and the most beautiful power plant in the world.''

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 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 preeminence.” As examples, he cites Ukraine's and central Asian countries' resistance to overdependence on Moscow.

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.

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. Last year Belarus secured a $3-billion loan from a group of Soviet republics led by Moscow.

Agfter the one-day visit to Minsk, 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.