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The presidents of Russia and Belarus will discuss in Moscow
The presidents of Russia and Belarus will discuss in Moscow on Monday joint measures to overcome the global financial crisis, integration and bilateral economic ties.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is currently in Moscow on a working visit. The agenda for the upcoming talks will include a wide range of bilateral cooperation issues.

"The meeting between [Russia's President Dmitry] Medvedev and Lukashenko will be a continuation of the intensive political dialogue between Russia and Belarus," a Kremlin official said, adding that the two countries' heads of state had already met seven times this year.

Bilateral trade between Russia and Belarus rose by more than 40% in 2008 year-on-year and is expected to hit a record $33 billion, the source said.

The talks are also expected to cover bilateral defense cooperation, as well as cultural and humanitarian contacts.

The respected Russian business daily Kommersant said Lukashenko would ask Moscow for a multi-billion ruble loan.

Russia earlier agreed to lend Minsk $2 billion, and Minsk received the first $1 billion tranche of the 15-year state loan at LIBOR +3% in November. Last year Moscow granted Minsk a loan of $1.5 billion to be repaid over 15 years.

"Mr. Lukashenko is seeking to borrow some 100 billion rubles ($3.6 billion)," Kommersant said referring to sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Lukashenko has also asked the United States for $5 billion in financial aid.

"It is very hard for us now, and we turned to the Americans for help...I think $5 million is not a problem for them," the Belarusian leader said in an interview published on Friday.

He added that Washington had supported a request by Belarus to the IMF for a $2 billion loan.


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