The leaders of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus have signed a treaty in Astana on the creation of a Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EES), ITAR-TASS reports.
The accord -- signed by Russia's Vladimir Putin, Kazakhstan's Nursultan Nazarbaev, and Belarus's Aleksandr Lukashenko -- would formally create a territory for unified customs tariffs beginning on January 1, 2015.
Speaking after the signing ceremony, Nazarbaev said allegations that the EES is nothing more than a re-establishment of the Soviet Union are not true, adding that the new bloc is purely economic and will play a key role in the world's economic development.
For his part, Putin said that key global economies have expressed interest in the EES, which he described as the major economic formation in the post-Soviet space, serving a market of 170 million people.
Putin said the EES takes cooperation to a "new level," while respecting the sovereignty of member states.
Lukashenko said he believes that Ukraine will join the EES "sooner or later."
Meanwhile, Ukraine's newly elected president, Petro Poroshenko, wants to sign a landmark trade deal with the European Union soon after his inauguration as head of state.