Eight former Soviet republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) signed a free-trade agreement today.
The pact was signed by Russia, Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Belarus.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said it would strengthen bonds in the loose regional grouping.
Putin said the pact, due to take effect in January, would replace a 1994 deal that some CIS members never ratified.
Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan did not sign the agreement but said they would consider doing so before the end of the year.
The CIS was created in 1991 as the Soviet Union was collapsing and grew to include all former Soviet republics except the three Baltic states.
Georgia quit the CIS after a five-day war with Russia in 2008.
compiled from agency reports