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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Signs Pacts With Lukashenko

President Boris Yeltsin promised deeper economic integration with Belarus after talks Tuesday with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, but ruled out the communist dream of recreating the Soviet Union.


"Life itself pushes Russia and Belarus towards integration," Yeltsin said after a two-hour meeting in the Kremlin with Lukashenko, Interfax reported.


The two presidents signed several bilateral agreements, and Yeltsin stressed that cooperation would develop between two fully independent states.


"The Soviet Union was created for a purpose, but there was someone who was not able to preserve it," he said, in a reference to his old nemesis, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. "We, however, are not creating the Soviet Union, the communists' dream. We are strengthening close integration ties for the benefit of the peoples of Russia and Belarus."


One of the deals the presidents signed Tuesday clears debts between the two countries in a so-called "zero option." Russia would write off Belarussian debts accumulated up to Jan. 1, 1996, and Belarus would drop demands for payment for uranium removed from nuclear weapons on its soil.


"Belarus owed us a certain amount [for energy supplies] and we owed Belarus for giving up tactical, strategic rockets containing uranium, which we, of course, did not throw away," said Yeltsin. "From this moment, neither of us owes the other anything and we can build integration of our relations on this basis."


Russia is planning to reach an agreement with Poland to build a road from Belarus through Poland, to give Russia and Belarus access to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, said Yeltsin.


Lukashenko then met with members of the Federation Council and with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Six bilateral agreements were signed after the meetings, according to Itar-Tass.


Lukashenko hailed the agreements as a turning point in moves toward integration between Russia and Belarus. "Today [we] managed to do what the Russian people have truly long dreamt of," he said, Interfax reported.


"Without Russia we can not ensure Belarus' economic security," he said. On the other hand, Lukashenko said, Belarus "was the Soviet Union's assembly shop and had one of the most intelligentsia-intensive industries in the Union." He said Belarus contributed $3 billion annually to the Soviet budget.


Belarus "is not a dead weight on Russia's legs," he said.