In 2010, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin encouraged Ukraine to join Moscow-driven efforts to integrate the economies of the biggest post-Soviet republics into one trading bloc
Putin wants to resurrect an smaller version of the former Soviet Union, through the invitation of the Ukraine to join the post-Soviet free-trade zone, or Customs Union, between Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.
Early in 2011, the Kremlin has unveiled the biggest rearmament programme since the fall of the Soviet Union, saying it intends to buy 600 new planes, 100 new ships and 1,000 new helicopters within the next decade. (20 trillion rubles or about $600 billion)
Russia's elections are March 2012.
Thanks to constitutional amendments passed under Medvedev, Putin's protégé, the next president will enjoy up to two terms of six years each, which means that Putin could remain in the Kremlin until 2024. Putin is now 58 and would be 71 in 2024.
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