World Bulletin/News Desk
A treaty on creating a Russian-led trade bloc may be signed next month, Kazakhstan's foreign minister said on Thursday, advancing President Vladimir Putin's plan to create a regional counterweight to the EU.
Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov said the pact to shape an existing customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan into the Eurasian Economic Union could be formalised in May.
Events since protests drove Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovich from power in Ukraine in February, after he rejected closer ties with the EU, have put an end to Putin's ambition to bring the rest of Ukraine into the new regional bloc.
Putin hopes the bloc will coordinate "economic and currency policy" among its members along the lines of the European Union.
"We are actively getting ready for this," Idrisov told reporters after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.
"At the end of this month there will be an important meeting of our leaders in Minsk that we expect will open the way for a key meeting in Astana at the end of May, when the agreement on the Eurasian Economic Union will be signed and formalised."
Analysts say after losing Ukraine, the Russian president will now turn to Central Asia, whose mainly autocratic rulers tacitly accepted Moscow's annexation of Crimea, to pursue a goal critics see as an attempt to restore the former Soviet Union.
A close ally of Moscow, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said last month that he "understands" Russia's actions in Ukraine.
Putin has described the Eurasian union as a supra-national body. It envisages removing all barriers to trade, capital and labour movement within the bloc and the eventual adoption of a common currency.Last Mod: 03 Nisan 2014, 14:30