Medvedev, Lukashenko hold surprise Kremlin talks
The leaders of Russia and Belarus held surprise closed-door talks in the Kremlin on Thursday in advance of the former Soviet republic's presidential election, Interfax reported.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko met for 90 minutes of "calm and constructive" talks, a spokesman for Lukashenko told the news agency.
The meeting was not broadcast in advance by either party and reporters were not allowed to attend any portion of the talks, Interfax said.
Relations between the two neighbours have cooled considerably in recent years as the sides fight over border tariffs and the price Belarus pays for Russian energy supplies, on which it relies.
Analysts suggest that Medvedev has grown tired of backing the unpredictable Belarusian leader, who was once labeled "the last dictator in Europe" by former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.
Lukashenko is all but assured victory in the December 19 election. The country's opposition has largely been run underground and is not represented in parliament, and he stands against mainly unheralded candidates.
The strongman leader has on several occasions vowed to remain in office for life, saying in a national address Tuesday that "I am only now ready to fulfil my presidential obligations in full."
© 2010 AFP