Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that some aspects of the building of the Union state of Russia and Belarus are well behind schedule. Opening in the Kremlin a session of the Supreme State Council of the Union state of Russia and Belarus, the Russian president expressed hope that the meeting "will pass in a business mood as usual and be very constructive." "Especially since we have not gathered for this purpose for a long time," he added. "Some of these questions are long overdue," the Russian president said. The Russian head of state suggested discussion should focus on the budget of the Union state and some other issues.
Lukashenko told journalists at the airport that the first on the negotiating agenda are matters relating to a single currency, a Constitutional Act, and the budget. "The budget is central. Yesterday parliamentarians adopted it. Now it is to be approved at the Supreme State Council," the Belarussian president said.
Lukashenko included questions of unification of legislation among the key issues. "And not even unification, but granting in practice equal rights to Belarussians in Russia and Russians in Belarus," Lukashenko specified, explaining that the matter concerned health services, pension scheme and education.
A RIA Novosti correspondent reports that weather came first for discussion at the beginning of the meeting in the Kremlin. Putin wondered what kind of weather it was in Minsk. The Belarussian president replied that the temperature was the same as in Moscow, perhaps a couple of degrees higher.
"I wish to point out that we always bring you sunshine. We have come here three times, and three times brought sunshine with us," remarked the president of Belarus, adding that it had even snowed in Moscow on the day before.
Europe which is panic-stricken over the consequences of rising energy and food prices could strike a treacherous blow to Ukraine this winter, writes Simon Tisdall for The Guardian.