President Alyaksandr Lukashenka yesterday said he wanted to establish a "personal, man-to-man friendship" with Russian president Boris Yeltsin, whom he "deeply respects as an experienced leader and president of a fraternal country." Lukashenka blamed the recent "estrangement between the two presidents" on the intrigues of Kremlin officials, whom he had recently identified as Boris Nemtsov, Anatoly Chubais, and Boris Berezovsky. Lukashenka warned those officials that he will continue to resist their plans for Russian business interests to take over Belarusan industries. He cited in particular "juicy bites" in the petrochemical and military-industrial sectors of Belarus, which he is "fully prepared to share with the Russian state and Russian people, but never with private business." Lukashenka’s chief spokesman, Valery Talkachev, retracted the Belarusan president’s recent description of Yeltsin as an octogenarian. Lukashenka had intended only to "call attention to Boris Nikolaevich’s great political experience" and "to his wisdom and foresight," the spokesman said.
Lukashenka also promised to issue a license to a correspondent of Russia’s ORT Television in Minsk — though not to Pavel Sheremet or Dmitry Zavadsky. Their trial will go forward, Lukashenka said. He gave this assurance yesterday in Minsk to Ksenia Ponomareva, the newly appointed acting general director of ORT, whom Lukashenka apparently considers untainted by the Sheremet incident. (Radio Minsk, Belapan, Russian agencies, October 9)
In Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Tarasov and Yeltsin’s foreign policy adviser, Sergei Prikhodko, confirmed in separate statements that Russia has recently been seeking to obtain an invitation for Lukashenka to the Council of Europe summit. (Itar-Tass, October 10) These statements, confirming recent reports from Western capitals, indicate that Russia continued to lobby for Lukashenka even at the height of the disagreement over the arrest of the ORT journalists.
Property of Major Ukrainian Church Seized by Russian Authorities.