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Belarusian President Lukashenka and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on November 10 (ITAR-TASS)
January 14, 2007 -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka today rejected what he described as Russian efforts to take over Belarus.
In comments made while voting in local elections, Lukashenka said he will not "bury the sovereignty and independence of the country."
Lukashenka was referring to a long-standing plan to create a union state. But he said Belarus had never considered the possibility of Belarus's incorporation into Russia.
Minsk and Moscow held several days of tense negotiations leading up to December 31 over the price Belarus should pay for Russian gas. It eventually led to a cut off of gas supplies and acrimonious accusations against each side.
Meanwhile, Belarusian voters cast ballots today in local elections, with some 7 million voters eligible to take part in electing members to some 1,581 local councils.
The main opposition leader, Alyaksandr Milinkevich, contended that the vote will be falsified by authorities.
Only some 200 opposition candidates were able to register for the election out of more than 22,500 candidates for posts on the local councils.
AFP reports that some 30 activists were arrested before the voting booths opened.