Russia, Belarus to ink unified air defence pact: Kremlin

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Moscow, Aug 20 (UNI) Russia and Belarus have decided to sign an agreement later this year, on creating a unified air defence system, Russian presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko said.

Mr Prikhodko said after the talks between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko in the Black Sea resort of Sochi yesterday that the two presidents agreed to hold a regular meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Russia-Belarus union in Moscow this fall, when ''an agreement on building a unified air defence system will be signed.'' Moscow and Minsk are developing a unified air defence system in line with plans to create a Union State, which they have been working on since 1997, envisioning a common economic, customs, and political space.

The military cooperation between the two countries is gaining momentum, bolstered by recent US steps to deploy missile defence elements in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Belarus has several Russian-made S-300 air defence battalions on combat duty and is negotiating the purchase of advanced S-400 systems from Russia, which will be made available by 2010.

President Lukashenko praised Russia's response to the crisis in South Ossetia. ''Russia acted calmly, wisely and beautifully,'' he said, adding Peace has been established in the region and it will last.

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