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Belarusian president tells Ukraine's leader: Just ask for help and we'll do it

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MOSCOW — Belarus' authoritarian president on Sunday promised to help Ukraine as it struggles through its pro-Russia separatist insurgency and economic hardships.

Ukraine's year of crisis has been unsettling to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled autocratically since 1994, and wants to fend off any protest movement like those that drove out Ukraine's Russia-friendly president in February.

But Lukashenko also has stalled on a Russian initiative to form a union state with Belarus.

PHOTO: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, center right, talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, second left, during their meeting  in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Mykola Lazarenko, Pool)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, center right, talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, second left, during their meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Mykola Lazarenko, Pool)

At a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev, Lukashenko said: "I want everything in Ukraine to be good," according to the Belarusian state news agency Belta. "If something is needed from Belarus, say so, and we will do it all for you in a day."

Belarus and Kazakhstan are part of a Russia-dominated trade bloc, which critics say effectively tries to reconstitute the Soviet Union. Ukraine was seen as being a key piece in the trade bloc, but the opposition by many Ukrainians to becoming more closely tied to Russia was a key issue in the protests that brought down President Viktor Yanukovych.

Yanukovych's ouster distressed much of Ukraine's ethnic Russian population, leading to Russia's annexation of the Crimea region and an insurgency in eastern Ukraine; the death toll in the conflict is some 4,700.

Kazakhstan's autocratic President Nursultan Nazarbayev is to meet with Poroshenko on Monday in Kiev, before heading to Moscow where he and Lukashenko are to attend a trade bloc meeting along with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the Kazakh capital Astana on Sunday, Nazarbayev also promised help for Ukraine and bolstered his statement by calling for Ukraine's independence and territorial integrity to be ensured.

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PHOTO: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, center right, talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, second left, during their meeting  in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Mykola Lazarenko, Pool)
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