ST PETERSBURG - Daily News with wires
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that Russia and Kazakhstan have agreed to launch a customs union starting on July 1, cutting Belarus out of the first stage of the union.
"Our Kazakh partners and we agreed to launch the customs code and other agreements related to the customs union on a bilateral basis from July 1 this year," Putin said at a press conference in St. Petersburg, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty reported Friday. "We signed an international agreement today that will enable us to move toward deeper integration, if necessary, on a bilateral basis," he said.
Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky stayed away from the meeting as disagreement on "sensitive issues" remained within the group.
Putin said Russia and Kazakhstan would be open to talks on Belarus joining the union at a later stage.
Putin cited Belarus's push for continued subsidized energy as a stumbling block in negotiations, according to Bloomberg.