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Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has hit out obliquely at Moscow in an annual address, suggesting Russia is seeking to dominate a trade grouping of former Soviet republics.

In the wide-ranging televised speech to parliament on April 21, Lukashenka said it has proven difficult to “establish equal, mutually respectful ties” among the members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EES).

“We are constantly engaged in disputes,” he said, adding that members have accused one another of launching price wars and have been “unable to share” funds in a common pool.

“We all have to understand the main thing: The Eurasian market is not the market of one of the countries. … It is our common, self-sufficient market, which we must develop in order to withstand any sanctions and come out winners,” Lukashenka said.

Observers say Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks to use the EES, which comprises Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan, to bolster Moscow’s influence in the former Soviet Union and counter the European Union.

At the same time, Lukashenka said Belarus has a “strategic” relationship with Russia and that he and “the Russian president” have “established trusting ties.”

With reporting by BeITA