Putin could become leader of a land larger than Russia with addition of Belarus

Russia's President Vladimir Putin was traveling Thursday to Belarus for a visit that will be watched closely for signs that the two ex-Soviet neighbors were advancing toward a long-discussed merger. The creation of a single state could allow Putin to become the leader of a land even larger than Russia is today after he steps down from the presidency next May. The Kremlin moved to quash talk of such a possibility, denying that Putin's talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and other officials will touch upon a draft constitution that would describe the structure of a unified country's government. Lukashenko's office, however, said last week that the document would be part of the agenda, and the secretary of the existing Russia-Belarus executive body said Wednesday that it would likely be discussed.