Andrei Illarionov, director of the Institute of Economic Analyses in Moscow, stated yesterday that Russia’s economic subsidies to Belarus amount to between $1.5 billion and $2 billion annually, "paid out of Russian taxpayers’ pockets" in 1996 and 1997. Illarionov focused on two forms of subsidy: writing off Minsk’s arrears for Russian energy supplies, and allowing Belarus to exploit the two countries’ customs union by taxing goods in transit to and from Russia via Belarus. This largesse represents a "personal gift by Russia to Alyaksandr Lukashenka," who "cynically milks the ‘elder brother’," Illarionov commented. Noting a significant level of economic growth recorded by Belarus in 1996 and 1997, Illarionov credited it entirely to Russian subsidies. (Russian agencies, October 9)
The apparent political implications of such observations are, first, that Moscow is propping up Lukashenka for reasons of foreign policy, enabling him to avoid economic collapse and social unrest in Belarus; and second, that Lukashenka expects Moscow, out of its own self interests, to continue such support and to tolerate his continued affronts.
Rahmonov Claims Right to Override National Reconciliation Commission Decisions.