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Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Russia and Belarus on Unity Day, via teleconference call, in Sevastopol, Crimea
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko agreed a raft of measures in the video callImage: MIKHAIL METZEL/SPUTNIK/AFP/Getty Images
PoliticsBelarus

Russia, Belarus agree on deeper integration

November 4, 2021

The two countries have signed a series of agreements to further integrate their economies, power sector and taxation systems. The measures come after the EU tightened sanctions on Belarus earlier this year.

https://p.dw.com/p/42bUD

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday gave embattled Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko his backing against foreign "interference" during a virtual meeting aiming to move the two countries closer together.

Putin hailed the "brotherly" ties between Russia and Belarus in a TV address after the two leaders signed a new package of measures in areas ranging from energy to defense.

What were the latest talks about?

Thursday's agreements saw Belarus and Russia align on areas of taxation, banking, industry and agriculture.

They followed a deal reached in September to work together on 28 programs that moved toward a decades-old plan for a "union state" between the former Soviet Union members.

Belarus' influence as a transport hub

"We will together resist any attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of our sovereign states and Russia will of course continue to provide assistance to the brotherly Belarusian people — there is no doubt about that," Putin said. 

"We are striving to do everything to keep it that way forever, based on the will of our countries for unity," he added.

Although the Eastern European partners did not discuss parliamentary or currency integration, the talks give Lukashenko a major boost amid tough EU sanctions imposed earlier this year.

Why is Belarus moving closer to Russia?

The EU clamped down on Lukashenko after he launched a ruthless crackdown on opponents to his almost 30-year regime. His government has jailed thousands of protesters who accused Lukashenko of rigging a 2020 election, even grounding a Ryanair plane to arrest a dissident blogger.

Belarus opposition members have criticized the package of new measures. 

"In 2020 our people denied authorization for Lukashenko to sign anything on their behalf," opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya tweeted.

The EU has accused Lukashenko of luring migrants from Africa and the Middle East before pushing them across the borders of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in recent months as payback for the bloc's sanctions.

Protesters hold a banner saying 'Open the borders' at the Bundestag in Berlin, Germany
Protesters in Berlin have demanded the EU allow migrants into the bloc after Belarus used them as political pawnsImage: Anna Widzyk

The situation has caused a humanitarian crisis along the EU's eastern border, with migrants forced to sleep in forests besieged by EU and Belarusian border guards.

jc/nm (AFP, Reuters)

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