Belarus president railed Friday against a proposed merger with Russia, warning it could lead to violence and disorder worse than in Russian-occupied Chechnya..
President Alexander Lukashenko's remarks highlighted the rising tensions between the two ex-Soviet allies amid strained talks over natural gas prices.
Moscow and Minsk signed a union treaty in 1996 that envisaged close political, economic and military ties, but stopped short of creating a single state. The Kremlin has since proposed that Belarus be absorbed into Russia.
Lukashenko, who has vehemently opposed such a union, reiterated his stance during a 4 1/2-hour news conference Friday. "Even (Soviet dictator Josef) Stalin didn't go as far as that ... I don't want to be the first and the last Belarusian president," he said.
The president, who has sought to make Belarus an oasis of calm amid other ex-Soviet nations in turmoil, said its incorporation into Russia could trigger chaos and fighting.