In his ongoing effort to reclaim the splendors of central planning, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka ordered the head of Belarus’s State Security Committee, or KGB, to crack down on black market hard currency transactions, and to “take the offensive” in defending Belarusan economic security. The official exchange rate for the Belarusan ruble is close to 60,000 to the dollar, while the black market rate is in the neighborhood of 170,000 rubles to the dollar, Reuters reported last Friday (November 6). An unnamed financial analyst told the news agency: “It will be difficult for even the KGB to fight against the black currency market since there is practically no legal market in the country. A normal person cannot follow abnormal logic when the cost of everything, including rubles, is set by the authorities.”

Also last Friday, a monument to Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin in the Belarusan town of Zhodino, east of the capital Minsk, was damaged by a makeshift bomb, the Associated Press reported.

This November 9, 1998 issue of the Weekly Fax Bulletin was written by Jonas Bernstein.