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Russian, Belarusian Leaders To Meet In Moscow Next Week

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) meets with Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Sochi on February 22.

The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin and authoritarian Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka have agreed to meet in Moscow later this month.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on April 16 that the two will meet on April 22 to discuss cooperation between the two countries.

"You can see how active the dialogue has been. You can also see the abundance of joint projects and plans," Peskov said.

Belarusian state news agency BelTa quoted Lukashenka as telling visiting Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin that he would meet Putin to discuss "certain problems."

Russia has pressured Belarus in recent years to take steps toward integration in order to cement a 20-year-old agreement to form a union state, only to be rebuffed by Lukashenka's defense of the country's sovereignty.

But seven months of unprecedented street protests over last year's presidential election and the resulting Western sanctions have put the Belarusian strongman on the defensive and seemingly more reliant on Putin's support.

The Russian leader himself has been under pressure from the West in recent months over a raft of issues, including election interference, cyberattacks, and the poisoning and detention of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny.

Based on reporting by Interfax, TASS, BelTa, and RFE/RL's Belarus Service