Vladimir Putin and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said they had made progress toward integrating the two countries’ economies during a summit on Thursday evening in advance of massive joint military exercises, The Guardian reports.
Putin said the two leaders had agreed to coordinate the countries’ macroeconomic policies, institute common tax and customs measures, and harmonise other financial controls as part of a 28-point roadmap that is expected to increase Russia’s influence over its neighbour. The countries will move to integrate their energy markets while maintaining steeply discounted supplies of natural gas to Belarus, and Russia will provide a further $630m in loans to the cash-strapped Belarusian government, Putin said.
“First the economic foundation must be laid before moving further on the political track,” Putin said after the talks, noting that the two sides had not discussed possible political integration.
The original agreements on the future integration of the two countries were drawn up as part of a 1999 Union State treaty.