Ex-Soviet states take first step to Putin 'Eurasian Union'
Three ex-Soviet states agreed on Friday the first steps towards creating a Eurasian economic union, a project championed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to bind closer the former USSR.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Kazakhstan and Belarus counterparts Nursultan Nazarbayev and Alexander Lukashenko signed the declaration on further economic integration at a ceremony in the Kremlin.
Medvedev said that the declaration envisages the creation of an executive commission to oversee tighter economic integration of the three countries and targets the creation of a full "Eurasian economic union" in the future.
"We made a very important step towards the creation of a Eurasian economic union. Without doubt this will be decisive in the future of our countries," Medvedev said in comments on state television which broadcast the ceremony.
Putin, who was not present at the meeting, evoked the idea of creating a Eurasian Union in a newspaper article published shortly after the announcement that he would seek to return to the Kremlin as president in 2012 polls.
The three countries already have a customs union but the creation of the Eurasian Union with its own executive body and overseeing a single economic space would mark a huge step further.
The Kremlin did not give a date for the creation of the Eurasian Union but the Vedomosti daily quoted sources as saying that 2015 is seen as the target date.
The initial members would be Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia but any ex-Soviet state would be welcome to join, it added.
Putin in his article said the union would build on the experience of the European Union and would be a "historic breakthrough" for ex-Soviet states.
The prime minister, an ex-KGB officer who once described the Soviet collapse as the greatest geo-political tragedy of the 20th century, denied he simply wanted to recreate the USSR under another guise.
© 2011 AFP