In a statement delivered during his just-completed visit to Russia, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka declared himself eligible for the presidency of the Russia-Belarus Union. Describing that would-be presidency as a strong executive office, with “wide-ranging powers and authority” over both Russia and Belarus, Lukashenka indicated that he would seek the post. “Don’t be afraid of Lukashenka… let the people choose,” he replied when asked to make it clear whether he would run for the post, if established as suggested.
In the same statement, delivered in Russia’s republic of Udmurtia, Lukashenka called for the unification of the Russian and Belarusan Defense Ministries and border troops into “supranational institutions” of the two countries. His proposal accompanied the signing of agreements whereby military plants in Udmurtia–a center of Russia’s military industry–will modernize the Belarusan army’s weaponry. Lukashenka wished aloud that the Russia-Belarus Union regain the international clout once enjoyed by the USSR: “When Nikita Khrushchev hit the UN rostrum with the heel of his shoe, the world cowered” (Russian agencies, February 15). Speaking in the Komi Republic during the same visit to Russia, Lukashenka called for “pulling” Ukraine and Kazakhstan into the Russia-Belarus Union, recreating a superpower to oppose the United States and NATO (see the Monitor, January 11, 15).
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VETOES PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION DRAFT.