Addressing yesterday an official conference on drafting a Russia-Belarus integration treaty, President Aleksandr Lukashenko described the Duma resolutions as "accelerating the two countries’ unification process" which, he stressed, had already been initiated and was being led by himself and Boris Yeltsin. Implicitly absolving the Russian president of his 1991 "errors" at Belovezhye, Lukashenko called on all political forces in Russia and Belarus to support him and Yeltsin in "remedying the errors of the past… Unification of the peoples on an equal and civilized basis is the imperative of the age and is unstoppable."
Defenders of Belarus statehood also began organizing. An estimated 1,000 people (by the official estimate) rallied in central Minsk to defend the constitution against amendments being drafted by Lukashenko which are expected to attempt to dilute national sovereignty. Speakers included former parliament chairman Mechislau Hryb (who led the resistance to Lukashenko’s authoritarian ambitions in the preceding parliament) and the reformist former chairman of the National Bank, Stanislau Bahdankevich — later joined by the reformist vice-chairman of parliament Henadz Karpienka — and announced plans to resist the amendments. (Interfax, March 16 through 18)