(Moscow) The presidents of Russia and Belarus, Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko, agreed on Thursday to strengthen the economic integration of their countries, whose rapprochement has been revived since a suppressed protest movement in Belarus.
Posted on Sep 9, 2021 at 5:00 pm
At a press conference in the Kremlin, the two heads of state and government announced the signing of a package of 28 programs to strengthen the “Russia-Belarus Union”, a political-economic alliance that has existed since 1999 and which has stood still for a long time.
Mr Putin pointed out that these programs aim at “standardizing Russian and Belarusian legislation in different economic sectors” and “building unified financial and energy markets”.
According to the Russian President, they must also enable a “common industrial and agricultural policy”. He also mentioned creating a unified gas market between the two countries before 2023.
Russia and Belarus are allies with turbulent relations, in which phases of rapprochement and disputes, especially over energy, alternate.
But the two former Soviet republics have been growing closer for a year after Lukashenko suppressed a historic wave of protests against his re-election in August 2020.
With Moscow’s unwavering support, the Belarusian leader arrested hundreds of opponents and accused the West – which imposed sanctions on Minsk – of instigating a revolution against him.
On Thursday, however, Putin made it clear that the question of further political integration had not been addressed, arguing that it was necessary “to create an economic base first”.
Alexander Lukashenko shortened his hypotheses about a possible merger of the two countries: “We must not get out of the old sentence that we are trying to swallow one or the other or to merge at the expense of the aspirations of our peoples.”
Mr. Lukashenko, who values his sovereignty, has been protesting for years against any advances that are frowned upon by Belarusians.
Militarily, Minsk and Moscow are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an alliance of four other countries from the Caucasus and Central Asia.
This meeting between MM. Putin and Lukashenko intervenes shortly before the start of the major joint military exercises in Russia and Belarus.