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'This is nice': Putin goes to Minsk for two-part meeting with Lukashenko

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) shaking hands with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus, Friday, May 24, 2024.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) shaking hands with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus, Friday, May 24, 2024. Copyright AP
Copyright AP
By Angela Skujins with AP
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Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko will spend two days discussing how to strengthen their alliance and discuss economic and security issues.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko met in Minsk to bolster their alliance in the Eastern continent while discussing economic and security concerns.

Before the start of the meeting, a ceremony was held at the Palace of Independence late on Thursday. Lukashenko — long dubbed "Europe's last dictator" — kicked off the proceedings by praising Putin for noticing the Belarusian "military" with his "experienced eye". "This is nice," he said, as quoted by Russian news agencies.

"As we agreed yesterday, we always have two parts. Security and economic issues. We have always postponed economic issues for consideration by our governments," Lukashenko said. 

"But today is just an opportunity to hear what has already been done in connection with our instructions, and we have one and a half to two issues that need to be resolved. Let's listen to the experts, they will report to us.”

Putin travelled to Belarus on the two-day trip to underscore the Kremlin's close ties with its neighbouring ally that has been instrumental in the conflict in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) listens to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at his arrival at the international airport in Minsk, Belarus, May 23, 2024.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) listens to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at his arrival at the international airport in Minsk, Belarus, May 23, 2024.AP

Although Belarusian forces have not participated directly in the Ukraine war, Belarus served as a springboard for Russian troops entering northern Ukraine. Dependent on Russian loans and subsidised energy, Belarus allowed its territory to be used as a staging ground for the Russian military, facilitating the deployment of Russian forces into Ukraine from Belarusian soil.

In 2023, Russia also moved some of its tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus.

Putin, who is beginning his fifth term in office, travelled to China earlier this month and is scheduled to visit Uzbekistan on Sunday.

The Belarusian leader recently appointed a new chief of the country's military general staff in a move that analysts say is aimed at showing the Kremlin the utmost loyalty of its ally.

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