'Last dictator' comes first for Putin


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The Independent Online

Vladimir Putin took to the road for the first time after being returned to the Russian presidency with a trip to neighbouring Belarus yesterday.

Having said he was too busy to attend the G8 summit in the US, Mr Putin found time to pay a call on Alexander Lukashenko, the autocrat known as, "the last dictator in Europe".

"The very fact of my first foreign visit to brotherly Belarus certainly reflects the special nature of our relations," said Mr Putin. In fact, the two nations have had a troubled relationship, but the isolated Mr Lukashenko has turned to Moscow for cash and support. "Vladimir Vladimirovich, I am very much grateful for this visit. It's a signal that a great future awaits us," said Mr Lukashenko.