The Belarusian president says he has named Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin the prime minister of the Russia-Belarus alliance.

Russia and Belarus signed an agreement in 1996 that envisaged close political, economic and military ties, but efforts to achieve a full merger have foundered. Structures of the alliance have limited powers.

The meaning of the move Tuesday by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was not immediately clear. Some observers expected Vladimir Putin to become president of a unified state of Russia and Belarus after he stepped down earlier this month as Russian president.

The Belarusian news agency BelTA quoted the executive secretary of the alliance as saying Lukashenko had coordinated the move with Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev.