Moscow attitude may draw Belarus closer to EU


PRESIDENT ALEXANDER Lukashenko told Belarusians yesterday they could no longer rely on Russia and must seek new allies, in comments likely to boost European Union hopes of a rapprochement with a country dubbed the continent's last dictatorship.

Mr Lukashenko has been frustrated by the Kremlin's reticence over plans to form a "union state" linking Russia and Belarus and by energy disputes, but he was infuriated by Moscow's refusal this week to provide finance to his country due to fears it is badly run and could collapse.

Visiting Belarus with prime minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday, Russian finance minister Alexei Kudrin said Moscow would not give Mr Lukashenko $500 million (?358 million) in previously agreed aid because he might not be able to pay it back.

He made clear Russia had not acceded to a request to fund a new $9 billion nuclear power station. "It's not working out with Russia - but there's no need to bow down or to whine or cry. We need to seek happiness in a different part of the planet," Mr Lukashenko told cabinet ministers.

The EU has invited Belarus to join its "Eastern Partnership", an initiative aimed at forging closer ties between Brussels and ex-Soviet states.



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