Russia denies Belarus cooperation linked to S.Ossetia, Abkhazia

16:47, 09 June 2009
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Belarus was promised a tranche of $500 million from Russia?

Russia`s foreign minister denied on Tuesday that practical cooperation with Belarus, including granting a loan, was linked to the country`s recognition of Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence, RIA Novosti reported.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told journalists last week it had been suggested that if Minsk recognized the independence of both republics, Belarus would receive a tranche of $500 million from Russia.

Commenting on whether a pre-condition for a Russian loan was recognizing the two former Georgian territories as independent, Sergei Lavrov said: "We have never asked anyone to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia."

"We... have never linked the subject with issues of practical cooperation between our countries," Lavrov told journalists after talks with his Belarusian counterpart, Sergei Martynov.

The Russian foreign minister hinted that such a linkage had been voiced by some EU officials.

"I mean, in particular, such statements that were voiced by European Union officials, who actually made the refusal to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia a condition for inviting the Republic of Belarus into the Eastern Partnership [program]," Lavrov said, complaining that Moscow had not heard Minsk react to the statements, which bordered on threats.

Belarus accepted the EU`s invitation to join its Eastern Partnership program, seen by many as designed to curb Russia`s influence on the six former Soviet republics - Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova and Belarus - included in the scheme, which was launched last month.

Lavrov urged Moscow and Minsk to act like partners "without giving way to emotions and political situations."

"Belarus does not accept any kind of linkages, no bargaining..., as was repeatedly declared by the head of our state," Martynov said.

Minsk earlier refused to accept a $500 million loan in Russian rubles, asking for U.S. dollars instead.

RIA Novosti

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