Updated at 19:23,23-11-2017

Lukashenka, Putin exchange words of gratitude at Minsk talks

By Iryna Lewshyna, Naviny.by

Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Russian President Vladimir Putin exchanged words of gratitude as they opened a session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Belarus and Russia at the Palace of Independence in Minsk on Thursday.

I want to say thank you for both support and assistance that you have always provided to us, Mr. Lukashenka told the Russian leader. He also expressed gratitude to Mr. Putin for bringing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev along.

Mr. Lukashenka said that the session had been prepared thoroughly. Vladimir Vladimirovich and I discussed the issues by phone three times, we had two meetings, the most recent one taking place in Sochi, our prime ministers were in contact, he said. We prepared all matters carefully, studied them. He predicted that the session would not take too long as all of the matters had already been discussed in detail.

Mr. Putin, for his part, expressed gratitude to the Belarusian leader for founding the Union State in the 1990s.

He described the Union State as the driver of integration in the ex-Soviet territory and said that Minsk and Moscow had an opportunity to make more steps toward the development of their special relationship.

The session's agenda included a dozen items, including the implementation of the 2015 Union State budget and the adoption of the Union State budget estimates for 2016. The Council was to discuss the results of trade and economic relations between Belarus and Russia in 2015 and hear a report on the results of a program aimed at the development of the Union State in priority areas.

Russia's RIA Novosti reported earlier on Thursday that the talks were expected to focus on the possibility of a fresh Russian loan for Belarus.

The previous meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Belarusian-Russian Union State took place in Moscow on March 3, 2015.