Medvedev speaks of greater union of Russia and Belarus (Roundup)

Minsk - Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev, speaking Sunday in the west Belarusian city of Brest, urged a greater union between Russian and Belarus.

'Both our peoples are inseparably bound to one another,' the Interfax news agency quoted Medvedev as saying at a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart Aleksander Lukashenko at a Brest fortress, where both leaders headed ceremonies marking the 67th anniversary of Nazi Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union.

The unity between Russia and Belarus already existed, Medvedev said, but it had to be filled with content.

Moscow and Minsk since the fall of the Soviet Union have been working with little success a unity pact.

With Medvedev's visit, there was the hope that the process would proceed 'so that our people could live better,' said Lukashenko after talks with Medvedev.

The Brest fortress, where the ceremonies took place, was one of the first targets of the German assault on June 22 1941. Most Red Army troops there died defending the position, making Brest a 'Hero City' according to Belarusian state-controlled media.

Russia has in recent years increased government emphasis on the Soviet Union's achievements in World War II. The ceremonies at the Brest fortress were broadcast live by Belarusian state-run television.

With an eye towards controversies in the Baltic states, Lukashenko and Medvedev in a joint declaration warned of attempts to rewrite the accomplishments by the Soviet Army during World War II leading to victory over Nazi Germany.

'The politicization of history should be countered by honest scientific debates,' said Medvedev. Both sides agreed to cooperate on preparations for the celebration of a '65th anniversary of the liberation from fascism' in 2010, marking the end of World War II.

Medvedev and Lukashenko later met for talks devoted to economic issues, Belapan news agency reported.

Russia is by far Belarus' largest trading partner, partly because of customs free exchange of goods between the two countries.

Economic relations between Belarus and Russia are nonetheless often tense because of Belarus' near-total dependance on Russian energy supplies whose cost to Belarus has tripled since 2005.

Russia in recent years has allowed Belarus to purchase oil and gas on credit - a policy according to Lukashenko placing Belarus' oil and gas transportation network in danger of confiscation by Russian energy companies.