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Nazarbaev Says Low Oil Prices Testing Ex-Soviet Bloc

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev says persistently low prices for oil and gas pose a "challenge" to the Eurasian Economic Union, a trade alliance that is part of Russian President Vladimir Putin's efforts to bolster Moscow's sway in the former Soviet Union .

Nazarbaev, speaking in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on March 20 at the start of talks with Putin, noted that "export prices have fallen, especially in Russia and Kazakhstan, for oil and other export commodities."

Putin said Kazakhstan and Russia must "work together" to overcome economic conditions that he said are "not easy."

The Eurasian Economic Union includes Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Armenia. Kyrgyzstan is slated to join in May.

Putin said he and Nazarbaev will discuss bilateral relations as well as the Ukraine crisis and preparations for May celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

The two will later meet with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Putin also endorsed Nazarbaev ahead of next month's presidential election, saying that anyone who "loves Kazakhstan" should vote for him.

Based on reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and TASS