A senior official of Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry, speaking on background yesterday, criticized the plan to create a joint Russian-Belarusian group of forces in Belarus. The plan was announced the preceding day by the Russian and Belarusian defense ministers, who specified that such forces would be created if Belarusian neighbors Poland or Lithuania move toward joining NATO. (see Monitor, May 15) The Lithuanian official described the Russian-initiated plan as "totally inappropriate in view of the Central European countries’ aspirations to integrate themselves into European and Atlantic structures." (BNS, May 15)
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry for its part stated yesterday that it had had no information on the military plan. By coincidence, the government yesterday approved the text of the country’s foreign policy concept and submitted it to President Aleksandr Lukashenko for approval. Consistent with the country’s neutral status, the document envisages the creation of "a belt of good neighborly relations" with all the neighboring countries and lists only civilian aspects of Belarus’s "priority relations with Russia." (Interfax, May 15) The Foreign Ministry and the government appeared blindsided by Russian-Belarusian military developments.
The arrest and expulsion of Polish Solidarity chairman Marian Krzaklewski and his party by Belarusian security police caused strong protests yesterday from international human rights and labor organizations, which also expressed concern over the deteriorating situation of human rights in Belarus. Poland’s Foreign Ministry and Polish political forces issued strongly worded protests, and Belarus trade unionists urged Poland to inform international public opinion about Lukashenko’s suppression of free media and associations. (Western agencies, May 15) Poland is the primary potential conduit to Belarusian opposition circles whom the president seeks to isolate.
Ukraine Offers to Mediate Karabakh Settlement Talks.