Three thousand supporters of the democratic opposition marched in downtown Minsk yesterday on Constitution Day, the fourth anniversary of the constitution rescinded by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Protest leaders, including former head of state Stanislau Shushkevich and shadow government leader Henadz Karpenka, described the constitution rewritten by Lukashenka and imposed in 1996 as abolishing fundamental rights and liberties. They also called for presidential elections to be held — according to the 1994 constitution — in 1999, not in 2001 as Lukashenka’s constitution provides. (AP, ORT, Russian agencies, March 15) The latter document is not recognized internationally; only Russia defends it. Western officials have announced that Lukashenka will also not be recognized as president after the expiration of his term in 1999 unless he is reelected in free and fair elections that year.
Also yesterday, delegations of Communist parties from ex-Soviet countries, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea met in Minsk to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding congress of Russia’s Social-Democratic Workers’ Party, the forerunner of the Bolshevik party and of the Communist party of the Soviet Union. Representing the Russian side at the meeting were Oleg Shenin’s Union of Communist Parties/CPSU and the group of Viktor Anpilov. Both organizations stand to the left of Gennady Zyuganov’s Communist party of the Russian Federation. Speakers endorsed Lukashenka’s policies, described Belarus as "an isle of reborn socialism," and urged leftist forces in CIS countries to unite behind the goal of reconstituting the USSR. (Russian agencies, March 15)
"Historic" Georgian-Turkish Summit.