Vladimir Putin could become the leader of a land even larger than Russia - a development that may hinge on talks beginning Thursday in neighboring Belarus.
Putin has unexpectedly revived efforts to create a single state from the two former Soviet republics - a merger that would expand his options for exercising power after he steps down from the Russian presidency next year.
Putin heads to the Belarusian capital, Minsk, on Thursday for discussions of a framework for the long-debated union, fleshing out an existing agreement that has meant little in practice.
A merger of Russia and Belarus could allow Putin to leave the Russian presidency as promised in May yet still remain a chief of state.
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