Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested to his Belarusian counterpartAlexander Lukashenko that a single union between Russia and Belarus, in thetrue sense of the word, should be created. The Russian leader made thisannouncement at a press conference in the Kremlin after his negotiationswith Lukashenko. In reference to this proposal, Putin suggested havingreferendums in Russia and Belarus about the single state in May 2003. Henoted that, after the referendums, elections to the single parliament couldbe conducted in December 2003 and presidential elections could be held inMarch 2004.Putin mentioned that his proposal was one of possible variants of thefurther integration between the two countries. At the same time, he calledthis proposal "definite, clear and understandable."According to Putin, another possible scenario of uniting the two countriesis the integration similar to the European Union. The Russian leaderexplained that this scenario stipulated the establishment of a unionparliament that would pass laws to be consequently confirmed by internalRussian and Belarusian laws..
Russia has left the list of 33 largest holders of US government bonds, after the country disposed of at least a third of remaining bonds