Russia, Belarus to sign unified air defense pact this fall

SOCHI, August 19 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Belarus will sign an agreement this fall on creating a unified air defense system, a Russian presidential aide said Tuesday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hosted his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday.

Kremlin aide Sergei Prikhodko said the countries' presidents agreed to hold a regular meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Russia-Belarus union in Moscow this fall, when "an agreement on building a unified air defense system will be signed."

The official said work on the agreement would be completed by the meeting.

The countries are developing a unified air defense system in line with plans to create a Union State, which they have been working on since 1997, envisioning a common economic, customs, and political space.

Although talks on the Union State stalled recently over a host of issues, including natural gas prices, military cooperation between the countries is gaining momentum, bolstered by recent U.S. steps to deploy missile defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Belarus has several Russian-made S-300 air defense battalions on combat duty and is negotiating the purchase of advanced S-400 systems from Russia, which will be made available by 2010.

Russia's defense minister said last year his country would continue to supply arms and military hardware to Belarus at subsidized rates and on a priority basis.



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