In a February 5 statement, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko indicated that Russia had agreed to extend its nuclear umbrella to Belarus, according to Russian press reports. Although Russian officials have not formally confirmed Lukashenko's statement, they have not issued a denial. Russia and Belarus have "harmonized" a range of economic and judicial institutions since the countries agreed to a long-term merger in 1996. The most recent treaty, signed by Lukashenko and then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin on December 8 and formally adopted on January 26, included provisions for military cooperation. A complete merger between the two countries is expected to take up to a decade to be finalized.