Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 109

Commenting on last week´s vote by Russia´s Federation Council to hold a referendum in Russia on accelerating integration with Belarus, president Aleksandr Lukashenka remarked to journalists that economic issues would have to be solved before political ones are tackled. "Otherwise, this discussion can turn into empty talk and discredit the very idea of a union." Lukashenka indicated that the formal framework for integration was of secondary importance and that the CIS already enables its member countries to form "something like the European Union as a first or, possibly, last step." On a firmer tone, foreign minister Uladzimir Senka said at a briefing that Belarus must remain a sovereign country, as "our sovereignty gained a few years ago is a historic chance we must not miss." Although "understanding the feelings of millions of people nostalgic about the former USSR," Senka called for having borders between CIS member countries "properly marked and backed up by appropriate treaties." (14)

The idea of a possible Russia-Belarus confederation was reportedly discussed by Lukashenka with Yeltsin recently in Sochi, but came up against the usual stumbling block: Russia´s unwillingness to subsidize the unreformed Belarus economy. This partly explains Lukashenko’s obvious ambivalence about reuniting Belarus with Russia. Senka on the other hand appears to support sovereignty per se: Supreme Soviet chairman Mechislau Hrib came out strongly in favor of preserving Belarus sovereign statehood following the Sochi meeting.

1. Interfax, October 6 and 9

2. Interfax, October 8 and 9

3. Interfax, October 6 and 7

4. Itar-TASS, Oct. 8

5. Itar-Tass, Public TV, October 8 and 9

6. Radio Mayak, Itar-Tass, October 6 and 9

7. Itar-Tass, October 9

8. Public TV, Radio 1, October 8

9. Itar-Tass, October 9

10. BNS, October 9

11. Interfax-Ukraine, October 6

12. Interfax, October 6

13. Interfax, October 7

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