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Grachev Says Russia and Belarus Could Form Joint Military Command

Moscow, May 14 (RFE/RL) - Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said today that Russia and Belarus might form a joint military command to prevent NATO expansion eastward.

Interfax says Grachev made the comment at a press conference in Moscow after meeting with Belarus Defense Minister Leonid Maltsev. Grachev said that Moscow was particularly concerned over the possible entry of Poland and Lithuania into the Western alliance. This would cut the Russian military enclave of Kaliningrad off from Russia proper and he said "create difficulties" for Russia.

Grachev and Maltsev today signed 10 documents on closer military cooperation between Moscow and Minsk.

Included in the documents is an agreement that Russia will retain its military plants in Belarus. Last month Russia and Belarus signed a treaty on closer economic and political cooperation.