The head of Aleksandr Lukashenko’s presidential administration, Mikhail Myasnikovich, flew to Moscow yesterday for three days of scheduled meetings with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Chubais, prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, the deputy prime minister responsible for CIS relations, Aleksey Bolshakov, and with foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov. As he left Moscow, Myasnikovich said that he is seeking Russian assistance through "joint" financing of selected government programs, Russian preferential treatment for Belarus’ main exports — tractors, machine tools, electronics, artificial fibers, and foodstuffs–and Russian investments to revitalize those industries. "The peoples of both countries" expect the Russia-Belarus Community to begin functioning in the economic sphere, Myasnikovich said.
At a special joint meeting of the cabinet of ministers and the Security Council two days earlier, Lukashenko described the economic situation as one of "free fall" and expressed "deep concern over social tensions approaching a critical point." "We have nowhere to retreat," he concluded after reviewing the picture of industrial bankruptcies, growing unemployment, budget deficit, and external indebtedness. Lukashenko could offer no immediate remedy to beyond accepting several ministerial resignations and hoping for Russian relief. (Interfax, Reuter, July 31 and August 1)
The assistance sought by Myasnikovich in Moscow was promised in the agreements which accompanied last April’s Yeltsin-Lukashenko treaty creating the Russia-Belarus Community. However Moscow has largely failed to deliver, and last week shocked Minsk by repudiating the Yeltsin-Lukashenko agreement which had forgiven Belarus’ arrears to Russia. Russia’s politically-driven intentions to bail out Belarus have thus far been hostage to two conflicting Russian forces and agendas: the reformist and the protectionist, each for its own reasons resisting massive relief for Belarus at Russian expense.
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