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Belarus’ leader vows the country won’t become part of Russia

MINSK, Belarus (AP) — The president of Belarus vowed again Friday that his country will not become a part of Russia, ahead of discussions this weekend with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over further improving their economic ties.

Alexander Lukashenko told Belarus’ parliament that he wouldn’t sign any documents that could harm the ex-Soviet republic’s interests and added that any new close relationship with Russia would be formed on equal terms.

There are concerns in Belarus that the economic discussions are a plot by Russia to swallow up Belarus — those concerns have been fueled by Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and its support for separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine.

Lukashenko rejected the notion and said Belarus “has never planned and is not planning to become part of any other state, even the brotherly Russia.” The two countries, he insisted, will be not be creating a joint parliament.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also said growing economic integration between the two countries isn’t a threat to Belarus’ sovereignty. “We also diminished our sovereignty when we joined the Eurasian Economic Union,” Medvedev said during a live interview to several Russian TV channels Thursday.

“One shouldn’t be scared of it — bold decisions should be made in order for ensure a firm foundation for the economic and social development of our two countries,” Medvedev said. __ Associated Press writer Daria Litvinova contributed from Moscow.

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