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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Pours Cold Water on Belarus' Union Hopes

MINSK, Belarus — President Vladimir Putin dashed prospects for speedy progress on a proposed merger with neighboring Belarus on Thursday, telling Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko that the project required careful thought.

The two leaders met in Minsk ahead of a summit of 11 members of the Commonwealth of Independent States. They walked out of the talks without the smiles protocol usually demands and said they would focus on economic cooperation.

They also signed the latest in a series of accords intended to move towards using the Russian ruble in both countries by 2005 and establishing a joint currency by 2008, with details to be decided later.

Putin appeared to pour cold water on Lukashenko's long-held desire for the union to assume a greater political role.

"The creation of a union state demands the voluntary renunciation of a certain amount of sovereignty, so we first need to think 100, or 1,000 times and only then act," Putin told reporters.

Lukashenko made waves Monday by sweeping through the upper echelons of his security forces with a list of sackings.

Putin said the firing of the head of Belarus's Security Council, the Prosecutor General and the chief of the KGB had been planned.

"The president had planned [the changes] for some time," he said. "This is the internal affair of Belarus."

CIS prime ministers were to meet later Thursday.

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said he would discuss with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko a memorandum on Kiev's gas debts to Moscow.

Friday's meeting of 11 of 12 CIS heads of state was expected to examine common policy on fighting terrorism and money laundering and setting down the organization's legal base.