Crisis-Hit Russia's Top Allies Build Ties with Ukraine

December 22, 2014 9:15 PM

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Crisis-Hit Russia's Top Allies Build Ties with Ukraine

Kiev: Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev followed his Belarussian counterpart to Ukraine today as Moscow's old allies built bridges to Europe while Russia's financial crisis and diplomatic isolation grew. Both visits were ostensibly made to kickstart stalled peace negotiations between Kiev and the two Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine that rebelled against Kiev in April. Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko hosted such talks in September and is hoping to do so again in Minsk in the coming days. But Nazarbayev has no evident link to the eight-month conflict and remains a prominent member of a Russian-dominated economic union that includes Belarus and once had aspirations to enlist Ukraine. A senior Ukrainian official told AFP that both leaders - criticized in the West for their intolerance of political dissent- were now trying to shake off the Kremlin and forge partnerships in Europe because Russian President Vladimir Putin "is weak". Some political analysts in Russia agreed. "This is an unambiguous signal to Putin," said Konstantin Kalachyov of Moscow's Political Expert Group think tank. "Both Kazakhstan and Belarus fear that their union with Russia will be engulfed by (an economic) crisis." 'Honest broker' Putin angrily rejects backing Ukraine's separatist fighters and calls the waves of Western sanctions a remnant of Cold War-era thinking designed to contain Russia and possibly even topple his team.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev followed his Belarussian counterpart to Ukraine today as Moscow's old allies built bridges to Europe while Russia's financial crisis and diplomatic isolation grew.

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