Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is calling for closer ties with Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan in a move widely slated in the Russian press as a provocation to Moscow.
"It is not the task of politicians at this stage," Russian-language news agencies quoted him as saying on July 24 in reference to the Belarus-Caspian partnership. "We have already done our part. Ministries and concrete enterprises should do this work now."
Lukashenka did not elaborate about what such a partnership would entail.
Lukashenka reportedly said that the three Caspian Sea basin states' vast hydrocarbon reserves will only increase the countries' strategic importance with time. Direct comments were not provided.
According to Russian news agency Prime-Tass, Lukashenka's comments mark the intensification of a political rift between Minsk and the Kremlin.
Earlier this week, in a clear challenge to Russia, Belarus told its citizens that they may only enter the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia through Georgia.