Putin calls for 'Eurasian Union' of ex-Soviet republics

Vladimir Putin at Russian State Library in Moscow, 28 Sept 2011 Mr Putin says a new political union would have a "positive global effect"

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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has called for a "Eurasian Union" of former Soviet republics along the lines of the European Union.

Mr Putin, who recently announced he is running for president, said the bloc would become a major global player.

He said Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan were already going ahead with economic integration.

However, he denied proposing to re-create the Soviet Union, saying a new bloc would have different values.

"There is no talk about rebuilding the USSR in one way or another," he said in an article in the daily newspaper Izvestia.

"It would be naive to try to restore or copy something that belongs to the past, but a close integration based on new values and economic and political foundation is a demand of the present time."

He said a "Eurasian Union" would "build on the experience of the European Union and other regional coalitions".

Mr Putin said the aim was to "create real conditions to change the geopolitical and geoeconomic configuration of the entire continent and have an undoubtedly positive global effect".

Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have already formed an economic alliance that removes customs barriers. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have said they are studying the possibility of joining the scheme.

Russia has long called for stronger co-operation between ex-Soviet nations.

However, correspondents say earlier attempts at forging closer ties have failed because of sharp economic differences.

Many ex-Soviet nations have also looked to the West and have remained suspicious of Moscow's intentions.

Last month, Mr Putin said he had accepted a proposal to stand for president in March 2012 with the backing of current President Dmitry Medvedev.

Mr Putin had already served two terms as president before Mr Medvedev took over in 2008. Observers say Mr Putin's return to the Kremlin is now all but guaranteed.

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