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Belarusian Leader Says May Reinstate Russian Border Controls

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (file photo)
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (file photo)

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka says his country could reinstate border controls with Russia if recent spot checks conducted by Moscow continue for a long period.

"If they want to close the border -- please go ahead," Lukashenka was quoted by state news agency BelTa as saying on June 1 as he visited posts along the border with Russia.

"If they close [the border], we must also impose border controls," Lukashenka said, while adding he would wait to see how Moscow's policies developed before making any decisions on changes.

Russia resumed spot checks of cars and passports at the frontier with Belarus, citing security concerns after Minsk in February 2017 began a five-day, visa-free regime for 80 countries, including those in the European Union.

The former Soviet state is considering extending the visa-free travel system to 15 days as it looks to improve relations with the EU, Belarusian officials have said.

Minsk and Moscow are longtime allies, but relations have been strained in recent years, and the authoritarian Lukashenka has made efforts to improve ties with the West by releasing some political prisoners and allowing representation from opposition parties to become lawmakers in parliament.

Based on reporting by Reuters and BelTA

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