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Lukashenko says Russia monster, ready to develop relations

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Wednesday his country will strive for a good relationship with Russia despite recent bilateral problems but called its eastern neighbor "a monster."
MINSK, March 28 (RIA Novosti) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Wednesday his country will strive for a good relationship with Russia despite recent bilateral problems but called its eastern neighbor "a monster."

Earlier this year, the neighbors were embroiled in an energy dispute after Russia doubled the natural gas price to $100 per 1,000 cubic meters and Minsk in response introduced a transit levy of $45 per metric ton for Russian crude pumped to Europe via Belarus. Russia briefly halted supplies to Europe, accusing Belarus of tapping its oil transits.

Lukashenko said Belarus will develop good-neighborly relations with Russia and the West. "We have a huge monster - Russia - in the east and the European Union in the West," he said, adding that his country has developed trade with the EU.

"As soon as we began talking to the European Union, Russians started crying that Lukashenko was betraying Russia. But Lukashenko is not a man to betray anyone," he said.

Lukashenko said Belarus is Russia's stronghold given U.S. plans to deploy elements of its missile shield in Central Europe and plans by Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO.

He said Belarus, which is building a union with Russia, will fulfill its defense obligations despite recent difficulties in bilateral relations.

"We will not blackmail Russia despite recent complications," the president said adding that defense was not a subject for blackmailing.

"I think common sense and a desire to continue our relations on a decent basis will prevail in Russia. We are ready," he said.

Lukashenko also said he will soon meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss bilateral issues and further steps on the creation of the Union State.

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