MOSCOW, March 20 (RIA Novosti) - President Vladimir Putin Monday congratulated his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, on his landslide victory in Sunday's presidential elections.
"The results of the elections point to voters' trust in your policies and to the further growth of the prosperity of the Belarusian people," Putin said.
Putin wished Lukashenko success on his post, and expressed hope that the two countries would continue building the union state, an on-off project currently slated to come into existence in 2008.
Incumbent Belarusian President Lukashenko, dubbed "the last dictator in Europe" by Washington, won more than 80% of the vote to sweep to a victory that had been widely predicted by both his supporters and the opposition.
The former collective farm boss, who has been in power since 1994 and has been widely criticized in the West for autocratic ways, was streets ahead of second-placed opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich, who received 6% of the vote and had forecast that his main rival would sweep to an easy triumph before any ballots had even been cast. Liberal Democrats chairman Sergei Gaidukevich and Social Democratic Party leader Alexander Kozulin gained 3.5% and 2.3% of the vote, respectively.
Despite criticism in the West, Lukashenko is known to have support in his homeland for providing relative economic stability in comparison with other former Soviet states.
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The British experience can be instructive for Russia. London retains its British Commonwealth if it wants to use this as a foundation for integration in the future. That’s a valuable lesson for Russian experts who are calling for an end to “ineffective” associations like the CIS, the Russian World and others.