Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Primakov Backs One Currency

Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov said Friday he supports a plan for introducing a single currency with neighboring Belarus, but warned against implementing it any time soon.

President Boris Yeltsin and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko agreed last December to introduce a single currency in 1999 as part of a proposed merger of the two Slavic former Soviet republics.

Speaking to a meeting of Russian and Belarussian officials, Primakov said the plan was still on, but shouldn't be pushed.

"I have a positive attitude toward the introduction of a unified currency in the union of Belarus and Russia," Primakov said after the meeting, attended by Belarussian Prime Minister Sergei Ling. "But today there is no question this idea can be carried out in the next few weeks, we need to prepare it."

Lukashenko, an authoritarian leader who is openly nostalgic for the Soviet Union and is widely believed to have his eyes set on the presidency of Russia, has steadily pressured Moscow to hurry with the merger.

Primakov said Friday that before a single currency is introduced, the two countries' economic systems should be made more similar.

"So far, we don't have that," he was quoted as saying.

While the prime ministers were meeting in Moscow, Lukashenko was in Izhevsk, a city with defense plants in the Russian republic of Udmurtia, where he called for Russia and Belarus to build up their armed forces.

The Belarussian president said Lithuania and Poland are deploying electronic surveillance systems whose range reaches Moscow.

Lithuania issued a prompt denial.

Lukashenko said that in the context of NATO's expansion, Belarus needs to maintain and re-equip its armed forces.

He visited the Kupol Electromechanics Plant in Izhevsk and inspected Osa anti-aircraft missile systems that had been overhauled at the plant.

A contract for the overhaul of an Osa system used by the Belarussian army was among those that has enabled the plant to recover, said Alexander Volkov, head of the Udmurtian state council.