The Moscow daily Izvestia disclosed on June 30 that Belarusan President Alyaksandr Lukashenka offended his Russian counterpart Boris Yeltsin during the international economic forum just held in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. Complaining that the Council of Europe declines to admit Belarus even though it has admitted Russia, Lukashenka remarked sarcastically that one can qualify “simply by shooting up the parliament from tanks, as certain people have done.”
The transparent allusion to Yeltsin drew no reaction from the Russian representatives in attendance or from the government in Moscow until Izvestia reported the incident, commenting: “One can imagine the storm of indignation in the Kremlin if Estonian or Latvian leaders had made such a statement…Only the ‘close friend and ally’ [Lukashenka] can afford such rude manners.” (Izvestia, June 30)
Challenged to react, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin conceded that Lukashenka had made “an unbecoming remark about Russia, the ally of Belarus.” It was, he said, a mere “slip of the tongue” which “occurred in the heat of polemics.”
In Minsk, Lukashenka’s team stood its ground. “The Russian president offers plenty of grounds for criticism. But this does not mean that our peoples must quarrel,” declared parliamentary speaker Anatoly Malafeyev. Prime Minister Syarhey Linh insisted on television that Russia is a net financial debtor to Belarus, not the other way around. (Itar-Tass, RIA, June 30 and July 1)
KUCHMA TRIES PSYCHOLOGICAL PRESSURE ON THE PARLIAMENTARY LEFT.