Seliger (Russia): Russian Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin today said he was in favour of Russia and its
western neighbour Belarus uniting into a single state, as in
the days of the Soviet Union.
"This is possible and very desirable," said Putin, when
asked at a pro-Kremlin youth camp on Russia`s Lake Seliger if
Russia and Belarus could merge into one entity.
"It depends completely on the will of the Belarussian
people," he added.
Putin`s surprise remarks come as Belarus battles a
massive economic crisis which has seen Russia extend a bailout
loan to its neighbour and eye some of its most prized economic
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is also pressing
on with an unprecedented crackdown against the opposition
following his controversial re-election in December which has
seen opponents jailed and protests brutally broken up.
Economists have blamed Lukashenko for doing little to
reform an outdated economic model which has seen Belarus
develop one of the biggest current account deficits in the
But Putin lavished praise on the man who has ruled
Belarus for the last 17 years and was once dubbed Europe`s
last dictator by the United States.