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MOSCOW – The leaders of Russia and four other ex-Soviet nations have completed the creation of a new ambitious alliance intended to bolster their economic integration.
The Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, comes to existence on Jan. 1. In addition to free trade, it's to coordinate the members' financial systems and regulate their industrial and agricultural policies along with labor markets and transportation networks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that the new union will have a combined economic output of $4.5 trillion and bring together 170 million people.
Russia had tried to encourage Ukraine to join, but its former pro-Moscow president was ousted in February following months of protests. Russia then annexed Ukraine's Black Sea Crimean Peninsula, and a pro-Russia mutiny has engulfed eastern Ukraine.