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Lukashenka, Putin Meet In Moscow To Discuss Energy Pricing

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) poses for photographers with his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 25.

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin that focused on energy pricing, trade, and other bilateral issues.

The two men met for about four hours on December 25 and then adjourned for a private dinner together, Russian state media reported.

Lukashenka told journalists at a joint press conference before the talks that he thought the two presidents would be able to reach an agreement on an energy-pricing dispute that has bedeviled relations for months.

Earlier this year, Russia announced changes to its tax system that, when implemented next year, will leave Belarus paying significantly more for Russian oil and gas. Belarus has criticized the change, but Moscow maintained that Minsk would still be paying less than other countries.

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anton Siluanov said the two leaders agreed to set up a working group to "prepare proposals on our further integration and the solution of pressing issues giving rise to concerns of our countries."

On the eve of the summit, Lukashenka said that relations between the two countries were no longer "fraternal," saying it would be more accurate to refer to Belarus and Russia as "partners."

Lukashenka's press spokeswoman, Natalya Eismont, told journalists that the two presidents had agreed to meet again before the end of this year "in order to make urgent decisions."

Based on reporting by AP, TASS and Interfax
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