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Less Russia, More Europe On Belarus's New Symbol-To-Be

The old (left) and new designs of coat of arms of Belarus

Amid a push from Russia for closer ties, Belarus is considering adopting a new national coat of arms that pointedly looks west.

The country's parliament's website says it has received a bill containing amendments to the law on state symbols and a recently established special commission will be involved in the debate over the proposal.

While the national anthem, flag, and several other symbols are unchanged in the proposal, the new coat of arms has subtle differences from the previous one, which had roots dating back to Soviet times.

Most notably, the new emblem shows a map of Western Europe and the Atlantic Ocean, a politically pointed change from the former emblem, which showed Russia and Eurasia.

The change could be seen as a reflection of the delicate balancing act Belarus, still a close ally of Russia, is trying to maintain.

Last month the country said it was open to conducting joint military ties with NATO, the Western security alliance that lies on Belarus's western border, while Russia sits along its eastern border.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka reportedly made little progress in talks in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on February 7 on the increasingly intertwined issues of energy prices and closer integration between the two neighbors, who signed an unfulfilled 1999 agreement on forming a union state.

Lukashenka, who has been in power in Belarus for more than 25 years, has faced growing pressure from Moscow in recent years to agree to deeper integration under the unification agreement, which envisaged close political, economic, and military ties but stopped short of forming a single country.

The plan, however, has been met by protests in Minsk recently, as Belarusians worry their country is on the verge of being swallowed by its far bigger, more powerful neighbor.

Other changes to the coat of arms include a larger silhouette of Belarus in the center of the insignia, and a bigger star near the top that still gives a Soviet feel. The shapes of the heads of wheat, clover, and flax are also updated, while the country's traditional colors of green and red are bolder than before.

A website for state documents and legislation has the bill's context with proposed changes.

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