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Putin Squeezes Belarus Strongman in Bid to Skirt Term Limits

  • Russian blockade forces neighbor to buy oil at market prices
  • ‘Union State’ pushed even after Putin’s constitutional gambit
Alexander Lukashenko, third left, speaks with Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7.
Alexander Lukashenko, third left, speaks with Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7.Source: Kremlin Photo Service
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Vladimir Putin’s surprise firing of Russia’s government and unveiling of constitutional changes that would weaken the presidency may only be Plan B for retaining power after his final term ends in 2024.

In the month before Putin’s Jan. 15 announcement, he’d pushed hard to convince his longer-serving counterpart in Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, to revive a moribund agreement to create a superstate between the neighboring former Soviet republics, two Kremlin officials said.