Updated at 11:30,08-12-2016

Former presidential candidate warns Putin over economic union with Belarus

Former presidential candidate and political prisoner Dzmitry Uss has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that Alyaksandr Lukashenka will seek to scupper Moscow's plans for a close economic union with Belarus.

In an open letter to Mr. Putin, who is scheduled to arrive in Belarus on May 31 on his first foreign trip since his return to the post of Russian president, Mr. Uss says that Minsk has failed to secure the free movement of goods, services, workforce and capital within the Customs Union and Common Economic Zone of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.

Russian-owned small and medium-sized businesses in Belarus are closely overseen by local security services, Mr. Uss warns. Some Russian businesses have been driven into bankruptcy by Belarusian authorities. The country's judicial system is fully dependent on the Presidential Administration and security services, the letter says.

Mr. Uss warns that the full-scale establishment of the Customs Union and the Common Economic Zone would force Mr. Lukashenka to lose much of his political and economic influence in Belarus. "This will lead to the Lukashenka regime's economic collapse, that's why he will interfere with the implementation of the Customs Union - Common Economic Zone project in every way possible," the politician predicts.

At the same time, Mr. Uss stresses, ordinary Belarusians support closer economic ties with Russia as they are key to the country's prosperity.

When reached by BelaPAN on Wednesday, the politician said that he expected Mr. Putin to respond to his letter with "specific actions" during his coming talks with Mr. Lukashenka in Minsk.