Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Belarus on May 23 for a two-day visit as part of several foreign tours to kick off his fifth term in office. 

Alexander Lukashenko greeted him on the tarmac, and then the two sat down for a “short conversation” at the airport, the Kremlin reported.  Lukashenko reportedly promised to discuss “security issues at the forefront, and tomorrow we will discuss economic issues together with our colleagues from the governments.”

The Belarusian president noted that he also has “a very interesting proposal,” involving the Caucasus region, which he discussed "very seriously" during a visit to Azerbaijan.

For his part, Putin said that when he visited China earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping “remembered” Lukashenko with “a kind word.”

"I had a big meeting with members of the government, and we talked about my visit to you ... We will discuss all this today and tomorrow, including security issues, which you constantly pay great attention to. ... Of course, we will also talk about the exercises – about the second phase of the exercises," he said.

Russia on May 21 announced the beginning of military exercises aimed at training the use of nuclear weapons. Belarus announced the same kind of drill on May 8.  Neither Moscow nor Minsk specified the date of the end of the exercises.

It was Putin’s second foreign trip of his new term.  Putin traveled to China on May 16-17.  Earlier on May 23, Putin hosted Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in the Kremlin.

In Belarus, Putin reportedly held talks with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko.

BelTA reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin explained the reason behind the choice of Belarus as one of his first foreign visits after assuming the president's office as he spoke to the media following the talks with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk on 24 Ma.

“This trip is one of the first foreign visits after assuming the office of the president, after the formation of the new government of the Russian Federation. By paying this visit I would like to emphasize the importance that Russia attaches to fraternal ties with our nearest neighbor, a reliable ally and a truly strategic partner,” Vladimir Putin explained.

According to him, the talks were very productive, with the participation of deputy prime ministers and ministers to discuss all the key issues of Belarusian-Russian cooperation in the economy, security and defense, cultural and humanitarian dimension.

Vladimir Putin emphasized that the trade between the two countries has been steadily growing from year to year. “Russia as the main economic partner of Belarus accounts for about 60% of the Belarusian foreign trade.  Last year mutual trade went up by more than 5.0% to reach a record-high of US$46.5 billion,” the Russian leader said.  In his words, although this figure is calculated in U.S. dollars, over 90% of all payments in Russian-Belarusian commercial transactions are made in national currencies.  “We can say that mutual trade and investments are protected from the influence of third countries and negative trends in the world currency markets,” Vladimir Putin said with confidence.