Live Updates: Russia’s War in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that Western sanctions are pushing Russia and Belarus to “accelerate integration” in various sectors, which he says would “minimize the damage” of the sanctions.

“Russia and Belarus continue to develop cooperation in the political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres,” Putin said in a video message to participants of an annual Russia-Belarus forum on Friday.

“Unprecedented sanctions pressure from the so-called collective West pushes us to accelerate integration. Together, it is easier to minimize the damage of illegal sanctions, it is easier to set up the production of the requested products, to develop new skills and expand cooperation with friendly countries,” Putin said.

Belarus is a staunch Russian ally and helped facilitate Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February, with some Russian forces entering the country through the Ukraine-Belarus border.

A number of joint programs between the two countries have already been developed and more are underway for the coming years, Putin said. Areas of cooperation include technological and industrial innovation, finance and transportation.

Putin said the joint programs aimed to create “equal economic conditions for our countries” and “would provide a reliable framework for a financial market and a transport base.”

His message comes just days before Belarus celebrates its independence from Nazi Germany on July 3, and as Russia and Belarus celebrated 30 years of diplomatic relations earlier this year.

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