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Putin, Lukashenka Meet Amid Energy Dispute


Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka in on December 29.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, have held talks in the Kremlin on an energy dispute that has hurt ties between the two allies.

It's the second time the two leaders have met in recent days following a December 25 confab at the Kremlin.

Earlier this year, Russia changed its tax system in a way that left Belarus paying significantly more for Russian oil and natural gas. Belarus has criticized the change, but Moscow maintained that Minsk was still paying less than other countries.

"I made a joke that we are sick and tired of each other. But we will probably never grow tired of each other because there are issues that need to be discussed. It's our work," Lukashenka was quoted as saying by Interfax as the two leaders headed into their December 29 meeting.

Commentators say Moscow is increasing pressure on Belarus for further integration under a 1999 union treaty.

The Kremlin on December 29 rejected as "unsupported statements" that there are plans to incorporate Belarus into Russia.

"Of course, we are not talking about any joining, etc. It's more likely movement toward each other. It's not movement in one direction," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by Interfax as saying on December 29.

Earlier this month, Lukashenka, who has relied on loans and cheap energy from Russia to keep its state-controlled economy afloat, accused some politicians in Russia of proposing to make Belarus part of Russia, plans he said he would stop.

Based on reporting by Interfax, TASS, and AP
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