Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 177

Belarusan president Alyaksandr Lukashenka yesterday indicated that he will go ahead with the trial of Russia’s ORT TV team, then amnesty the three men following a possible conviction. Disclaiming as usual any authority to "influence" the investigation and trial, Lukashenka nevertheless hinted at a possible release of the three men even prior to a conviction: the authorities "are working on the problem, notwithstanding legal formalities," he said. He cited Russian president Boris Yeltsin as agreeing to leave the issue up to Belarusan courts and "never again raise it at the high political level." Lukashenka also warned that "any foot-stomping will not facilitate the decision."

Lukashenka was speaking in Almaty where he began an official visit yesterday. Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbaev supported Lukashenka’s actions in the ORT affair, citing the principles of state sovereignty, noninterference in internal affairs, and supremacy of law. Nazarbaev also accused Russian television networks in general of dominating the airwaves of CIS member countries and providing one-sided coverage of events. (Russian agencies, Radio Minsk, September 23)

The legal term for pretrial detention and investigation of the ORT employees expires tomorrow, 60 days after their arrest. Team leader Pavel Sheremet is in KGB detention; cameraman Dmitry Zavadsky has been transferred from jail to a form of house arrest after signing a statement of repentance and request for pardon; and driver Yaroslav Ovchinnikov is free but at the disposal of investigative agencies. The Belarusan authorities have broken that deadline in the case of former National Bank president Tamara Vinnikava, who has been held by the KGB for pretrial investigation since January.

Azerbaijani Oil Update.