Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for the unification ofpost-Soviet states into a "Eurasian Union" in an article published Tuesday on the announcement of his planned return to the Kremlin.
Putin's article in the Izvestia daily outlining a grand project to integrate post-Soviet states into closer cooperation comes five months before polls that can put him at the helm of foreign policy decisions for at least six years.
The front-page piece, titled "New Eurasian integration project: a future that begins today", sings praises to Russia's economic integration with Belarus and Kazakhstan.
But, Putin writes, "we set a more ambitious goal to go to the next, higher level of integration -- the Eurasian Union," which would "build on the experience of the European Union and other regional coalitions."
Russia has pursued for several years closer economic cooperation with ex-Soviet partners, forming a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan in 2009 and later developing it into what it calls a unified economic zone.
Putin called the project a "historic breakthrough" for all post-Soviet states, which would break barriers for business dealings as well as people looking for a job.
"The idea is not to recreate the Soviet Union in some form," Putin writes, adding that the Eurasian Union would combine human and economic capital of its members to "ensure the stability of global development."
The political potential of this project, said Putin, is to "create real conditions to change the geopolitical and geoeconomic configuration of the entire continent and have an undoubtedly positive global effect."
The plan to create a Eurasian Union raises questions as to Russia's future within the World Trade Organisation, which has been a permanent issue on the foreign policy agenda of President Dmitry Medvedev.
Russia is the biggest economy still outside the trade organisation, and has pursued membership for many years. Putin did not explain in his article however how unification with other post-Soviet states would help its accession.
The article, his third Russian piece since 2009, is the first published by Putin since he announced on September 24 his decision to seek the presidency in March after serving as head of state in 2000-2008.
Putin has also penned stories for British and Polish newspapers.