Russian, Belarusian leaders to discuss trade, military ties

MOSCOW, September 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russian and Belarusian presidents will meet during the final stage of military drills in the Belarusian city of Baranovichi on Tuesday to discuss trade and military ties.

Dmitry Medvedev and Alexander Lukashenko will attend the final stage of the large-scale joint military exercises, Zapad (West) 2009, which started on September 18 and ends on Tuesday. On Monday the Russian president said the exercise was of a defensive nature and the two countries were "not threatening anyone."

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko earlier said that the removal of trade barriers was the only problem in the relations between the two states.

Relations between Belarus and Russia, which have been trying for several years to establish a Union State, have been strained recently over a series economic and political disputes, including Russian energy supplies, a milk export row and Lukashenko's reluctance to sign a deal to set up a post-Soviet rapid reaction force.

The Russian president said the talks would not go on smoothly, but the solutions would definitely be found.

Kremlin aide Sergei Prikhodko earlier said the two leaders are expected to meet on the sidelines of the Eurasec summit in November.

The ex-Soviet neighbors announced plans in the late 1990s to form a union state in a bid to achieve greater political, economic and military integration, but the project has largely existed on paper.



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