...a continuing series.
Jabs and feints. The U.S. passes a resolution followed by this declaration from Putin...with elections on the way.
How else to distract in the midst of an economic downturn?
SELIGER, Russia — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Monday he was in favour of Russia and its neighbour Belarus reuniting into a single state as in Soviet days, and would also be open to South Ossetia joining the fold.
"This is possible and very desirable," said Putin, when asked at a pro-Kremlin youth camp on Russia's Lake Seliger if Russia and Belarus could merge into one entity.
"It depends completely on the will of the Belarussian people," he added.
Putin's surprise remarks come as Belarus battles a massive economic crisis which has seen Russia extend a bailout loan to its western neighbour and eye some of its most prized economic assets.
Economists have blamed Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko for doing little to reform an outdated economic model which has seen the country develop one of the biggest current account deficits in the world.
But Putin lavished praise on the man who has ruled for the last 17 years and was once dubbed Europe's last dictator by the United States.
"Despite the problems that spring up from time to time -- like the economy, energy, the rows with gas -- you need to give respect to the leadership of the country and Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko, who has consistently followed a path of integration with Russia," Putin said.