Belarus' president surprised with rumoured merger with Russia

Both Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko and Kremlin denied that Russia and Belarus had a plan to immediately merge and that Vladimir Putin was going to become a leader of the new state.

Putin has no right to stay at power after March 2 presidential elections, but it is clear that he wants to maintain his influence in Russia’s policy.

"I wouldn't be surprised if Putin tries to speed up a union with Belarus ... to become the president of the unified state," Russian Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov said this week, the AP reported.

The suggestions appeared after the information that Russia ’s leader was going to visit Belarus to discuss a long-dormant proposed merger of the two countries.

But Belarus’ President said "I was surprised that this visit has caused all this uproar in the West. There is no wider meaning here."

The Kremlin also said that Putin's talks with Lukashenko and other officials would touch upon a draft constitution that would describe the structure of a unified country's government.

Those statements discouraged the West that seeks the possibility to prove that Putin is an authoritarian leader who fears to loose his power.

Nevertheless, the meeting of two Presidents was considered a sigh if growing interest in bringing the union state to fruition after more than a decade of sporadic discussions and arguments.

Putin has some other ways to stay in power.

Dmitry Medvedev was supported on Monday to become new presidents. After that Medvedev gained wide popularity and became the 1 candidate in the vote. He asked Putin to become his prime minister.

There was no answer.

A merger of the two predominantly Slavic, Orthodox Christian countries would be the first of any two ex-Soviet republics since the Soviet Union split apart in 1991, and would make many Russians proud. But it would deepen Western concerns about an increasingly assertive Russia.

The Kremlin said Thursday that a draft constitution of a union was not on the agenda of Friday's session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State. After his arrival late Thursday, Putin dined privately with Lukashenko.

Last week, Russia's Ekho Moskvy radio quoted unidentified members of the Lukashenko administration as saying Moscow and Minsk had struck a deal under which Putin would become president of a Russia-Belarus union while Lukashenko would be speaker of its parliament.

Pavel Borodin, secretary of the existing Russian-Belarusian executive body, said Wednesday that drafts of the constitution being considered would give the president of a new unified country the power to rule over the current national governments.

He said the new constitution, once agreed upon by governments, would be subject to approval by each nation's parliament and put to voters in national referendums.

But Lukashenko doesn’t seem to be willing to cede power, so the merging can’t be reached, the analysts said.

"The two nations have opposite interests," Minsk-based independent political analyst Alexander Klaskovsky told The Associated Press. "Moscow wants to expand its presence in Belarus, while Minsk wants to get economic assistance while maintaining full sovereignty."

A union agreement was signed by Russia and Belarus in 1996 – a step to improve close political, economic and military ties - but efforts to achieve a full merger have foundered.

In the 1990s, Lukashenko pushed for the creation of a single state, apparently hoping to take the reins from Russia's ailing President Boris Yeltsin. Putin's election in 2000 demolished Lukashenko's hopes to rule both countries.

A Kremlin proposal for incorporating Belarus into Russia was rejected by Lukashenko two years later. Russia doubled natural gas prices, blowing up Belarus ' Soviet-style economy, but the prices stayed lower than for other countries.

The two nations are expected to reach the deal on a Russia loan that will give Belarus opportunity to cope with higher prices.

On Thursday about 15 young man were detained for protesting against a merger. They gathered in central Minsk with sings saying "Putin go home" and "No union with Russia."

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