Belarusian president praises military understanding with Russia

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told journalists on June 24 that the ongoing nine-day Belarusian-Russian military exercises "Union Shield 2006" is evidence of complete understanding between the militaries of the two countries, Belapan reported. "Military bases, as you know, are springing up near the western border of our state like mushrooms after the rain. We have to respond and show that our militaries are worth their salt," Lukashenka noted at a training ground near Baranavichy after observing the war games. Union Shield 2006 involved 8,800 troops, including 1,800 from Russia, as well as tanks, armored vehicles, combat planes and helicopters, and Russian strategic bombers. The previous day Minsk hosted a summit of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization, which comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who chaired the summit, said at a news conference that Uzbekistan, which withdrew from the organization in 1999, has opted to resume its participation in it. Following the news conference, Lukashenka, Armenian President Robert Kocharian, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev, Uzbek President Islam Karimov, and Putin left for a recreation center near Minsk for what official information sources called "no-necktie" talks. JM