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Belarus will preserve ties with Russia - Lukashenko

RIA Novosti

19:08 20/12/2010

MINSK, December 20 (RIA Novosti) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Monday he was ready to "put up with anything" to preserve ties with Russia.

"I will have patience and bear all ills to ensure that we do not drift away from Russia," he said, adding that he had never been Russia's enemy.

He reiterated his pledge that Belarus would be the first to ratify the agreements on a Unified Economic Space between Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan.

Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, won presidential elections in the former Soviet state on Saturday with 79.7 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results.

Following Sunday's election, thousands of protesters, who claimed the vote was rigged, tried to storm the country's parliament. Some 600 people were detained by police.

Both the EU and the United States have decried the police reaction. Russia's official response is still pending , although the CIS monitoring mission called the elections "democratic."

The once-strong relations between Moscow and Minsk have been strained recently over several economic and political disputes, including gas transits, and Lukashenko's failure to honor his promise to recognize the former Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

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