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Russia, Kazakhstan Launch Customs Union - Without Belarus

Russia and Kazakhstan have launched a customs union in an effort to boost trade and investment between them.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told a government session that Belarus was still welcome to join, saying Moscow was seeking "full-fledged, mutually beneficial cooperation" with Minsk.

Belarus has not yet ratified all the necessary documents to join the customs union.

Minsk has linked the ratification of the documents with a demand that Russia cancel export duties on oil.

compiled from agency reports