Russia, Belarus ready to boost union state cooperation amid sanctions

Russian Prime Minister Mishustin and his Belarusian counterpart Roman Golovchenko attend a signing ceremony in Minsk
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin shakes hands with his Belarusian counterpart Roman Golovchenko during a signing ceremony following a meeting of the Ministers' Council of the Union State of Russia and Belarus in Minsk, Belarus September 10, 2021. Sputnik/Dmitry Astakhov/Pool via REUTERS

March 14 (Reuters) - The prime ministers of Russia and Belarus reaffirmed their commitment to a union state between their two countries on Monday and stated the importance of cooperation in the face of Western sanctions.

Western nations have taken unprecedented measures to punish Russia and its ally Belarus over the war in Ukraine, threatening both countries' economic health.

"We are taking coordinated measures to protect our economic security and the technological sovereignty of Russia and Belarus," Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said after meeting his Belarusian counterpart Roman Golovchenko in Moscow.

"Above all, we consider it necessary to strengthen integration in the union state," he added.

The two Slav neighbours are formally part of a "union state" and have been in talks for years to move closer together, a process that accelerated after Russian President Vladimir Putin propped up Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko in 2020 when his rule was threatened by months of mass street protests.

Western nations imposed sanctions on both countries after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a special military operation designed to de-militarise and "denazify" the former Soviet republic.

"We are grateful to our Belarusian friends for their constructive position on the situation around Ukraine," Mishustin said. "For us this is very important and valuable."

"I am convinced that the illegitimate economic sanctions will not hinder the advancement of integration in the union state and the further development of our fraternal relations," he said.

Golovchenko appealed to Russia for economic support, saying Belarus was ready to implement the agreements on economic integration contained within the union state's framework.

"Given the high vulnerability of the Belarusian economy to external shocks, we are counting on support from the Russian Federation at this difficult time," he said.

He also called for urgent implementation of support measures including delaying the restructuring of Belarusian debt, transitioning to a new pricing system for Russian oil and fixing natural gas prices for Minsk in Russian roubles pegged to Russian domestic prices.

Reporting by Reuters Editing by Gareth Jones

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