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Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan Agree On Economic Union

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (center) poses with his Belarusian and Kazakh counterparts, Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Nursultan Nazarbaev, during a signing ceremony in Moscow on November 18.
Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan have agreed to create a body regulating their trade and economies that could eventually become a Eurasian economic union.

The presidents of the three former Soviet republics -- which already have a customs union -- signed a declaration in the Kremlin targeting a full "Eurasian economic union" by 2015.

Russia's Dmitry Medvedev, Belarus's Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan also signed an accord on the creation of a super-national executive body to oversee tighter economic integration.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recently evoked the idea of an EU-style Eurasian economic union to bring former Soviet republics closer.

Medvedev said any former Soviet republic would be welcome to join.

"We have taken a new and very powerful step on the path to forming a Eurasian Economic Union, a union that without a doubt will determine the future of our countries," Medvedev said at the signing, televised live on Russian state TV.

Critics have said the project is aimed at recreating the former Soviet Union under another guise, but Kazakh President Nazarbaev rejected such a notion.

"How can anyone talk about a reincarnation [of the Soviet Union]? The Soviet Union existed under a firm administrative command system, with total state ownership of means of production, and a single communist ideology as the backbone of the Communist Party," he said.

"Can anybody imagine the restoration of Gosplan or Gossnab [state planning and procurement bodies] now? We need to explain to people that these are just incomprehensible, phantom fears spread by our opponents, or simply, enemies, who simply don't want any such integration to occur on this territory."

The Eurasian Economic Commission will be headed by Russian Industry Minister Viktor Khristenko, and the Eurasian Economic Union will be headquartered in Moscow.

compiled from agency reports