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Lukashenka Says Belarus Could Leave Eurasian Group If Agreements Not Kept

MINSK -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka says his country "does not rule out" quitting the Eurasian Economic Union (EES), an instrument for Russian influence in the former Soviet Union, if agreements in it are not kept.

Speaking at an annual news conference on January 29, Lukashenka said "trade wars" within the bloc are unacceptable and pointed at an ongoing standoff between Moscow and Minsk over food imports and exports.

Lukashenka emphasized that Belarus and fellow EES member Kazakhstan have always pushed to preserve the "purely economic" status of the grouping, seemingly suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to use it as a political lever.

"We, and especially Kazakhstan, have always ruled out any political nature for the union," adding that the two nations had rejected the idea of a common visa regime for that reason.

Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in a bloody conflict in eastern Ukraine has caused concern among its neighbors.

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