The Belarusan Popular Front (BPF) appeals to the governments and parliaments of democratic countries in Europe and North America “to really support the Belarusan opposition’s effort in the struggle for freedom and independence of Belarus.” The appeal points out that the documents on further integration of Russia and Belarus, signed in the Kremlin on December 25 by Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Alyaksandr Lukashenka, are illegitimate and represent “a further attempt to annex Belarus.” The BPF calls on the democratic countries to (1) make a political assessment of the Yeltsin-Lukashenka initiative; (2) condition financial aid to Russia on its renunciation of its attempts to terminate Belarus’ sovereignty; and (3) raise in the Council of Europe, at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and at the UN the issue of the threat to Belarus’ independence and the human rights violations in the country (Belapan, January 1, 3).
Meanwhile in a politically inspired measure, the Belarusan government ordered a massive emission of the already depreciated Belarusan ruble. Effective January 1, 1999, the government increased the minimum wage by 40 percent. That move automatically increases some Soviet-type “social benefits” and other disbursements which are pegged to the minimum wage. Furthermore, salaries of state employees are being increased by 26 percent on the average (Itar-Tass, January 2). These measures form part of Lukashenka’s recently unveiled strategy of offering illusory economic concessions to the populace in the hope of minimizing the social base of the political opposition (see the Monitor, November 25).
JAPAN BOOSTS PRESENCE IN AZERBAIJANI OIL PROJECTS.