Belarusian pres slams Russia, wants closer ties with West

MOSCOW, Jul 24 (Prime-Tass) -- Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday criticized Russia and called for closer ties with the West as a political rift between Russia and Belarus intensified, Russian business daily Kommersant reported Friday.

In a veiled reference to the Russian government's actions, Lukashenko said there were those who were seeking to undermine cooperation between Russia and Belarus.

"We hear Russia stating that its goal is to promote relations with former Soviet states on an equal footing," he said at a meeting with foreign ambassadors. "Why then is the united security system (covering the territory from the Belarusian city of) Brest to (Russia's) Vladivostok being destroyed? Why then is the profound and interlinked framework of engineering and technological cooperation being destroyed?"

Lukashenko said that he was concerned and disappointed with Russian-Belarusian relations.

He also called for closer economic and security cooperation with the U.S., the E.U., and Ukraine.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Belarus' Foreign Ministry called on Belarusian citizens to comply with Georgian laws while visiting Georgia's Russian-backed breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, according to Kommersant. Russia, which recognized the republics' independence after a war with Georgia last year, has also urged Belarus to recognize the independence of the two regions. Belarus' latest move indicates its recognition of Georgia's territorial integrity, Kommersant reported.

Russia and Belarus have been involved in a series of rows in recent months.

In particular, Russian authorities banned milk and meat imports from Belarus, citing food safety standards, while Belarus prohibited Russian oil product supplies through a Belarusian pipeline.

In May, Lukashenko also harshly criticized Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin for his statements about Belarus' economic policies and called for re-orienting Belarus' foreign and economic policy away from Russia towards other countries.

Additionally, in June, Lukashenko failed to attend a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance dominated by Russia, and Belarus did not sign a CSTO agreement to create a rapid reaction force.



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