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Putin, Lukashenka To Meet In St. Petersburg Amid Heightened Tensions

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) is welcomed by Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka during a meeting in Minsk in June 2016.

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are set to meet in St. Petersburg amid heightened tensions between the two countries over gas and integration issues.

Lukashenka has lashed out at Russia several times in recent months, launching his latest salvo during a period of rocky relations with Moscow on March 9, saying that nobody can bring his country "to its knees" after bickering erupted over a persistent gas-price dispute.

A month earlier, he accused his powerful neighbor of violating treaties and using its role as an energy supplier to "grab us by the throat."

According to Minsk, Russia has more than doubled the price it charges Belarus for gas over a yearlong period since the Eurasian Economic Union started functioning in January 2015.

Lukashenka has even vaguely suggested that if pushed too far, Minsk could abandon its close ties with Moscow, which sees Belarus as a buffer between Russia and the NATO security alliance.

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