Russia, Kazakhstan agree customs union minus Belarus

Russia and Kazakhstan agreed to launch a customs union from July 1 in a move that complicates accession talks with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and further sours relations with Belarus

Russia will resume accession talks, now in their sixteenth year, next month, and it could possibly join the WTO within a year amid generally better ties with Brussels and Washington.

"We agreed to launch the customs regulations for the... union on a bilateral basis," Putin told reporters at a briefing in Russia's second-largest city, St. Petersburg.

The absence of Belarus at the first stage of the customs union could also increase the likelihood of oil price disputes between Moscow and Minsk which have previously led to the disruption of Russian oil flows across Belarus to Germany and Poland.

However, Putin said he hoped Belarus joins the union after the country approves all of the required legal statutes.

"We will apply to the WTO in a trilateral format (in this case). If it does not materialize we will apply together (with Kazakhstan)," Putin said.


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