Leader of Belarus gifts Putin a tractor for 70th birthday

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin got an unusual gift for his 70th birthday on Friday: a tractor.

As the leaders of several ex-Soviet nations met at the Czarist-era Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus presented Putin with a gift certificate for the vehicle. Tractors have been the pride of Belarusian industry since Soviet times.

Lukashenko, an autocratic leader who has ruled the ex-Soviet nation with an iron hand for nearly three decades while cultivating a man of the people image, told reporters he used a model in his garden similar to the one he gifted Putin.

It wasn’t clear how the Russian leader responded to the gift, which Lukashenko’s office revealed.

Putin didn’t mention the gift in televised remarks at the start of the meeting when he talked about the need to discuss ways of settling conflicts between ex-Soviet nations.

He also emphasized the need to exchange information to fight terrorism, illegal drugs and other crime.

The leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance of ex-Soviet nations, have another gathering to attend next week in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana.

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