Russian deputy prime minister Valery Serov and Belarusan president Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s chief of staff, Mikhail Myasnikovich, yesterday signed an agreement whereby Russia is to grant Belarus a 500 billion ruble state credit for use in 1997. Most of the credit is earmarked for Russian-Belarusan joint production of motor vehicles and agricultural machinery at plants in Belarus. A portion of the credit is supposed to finance operations of Belarusan companies on the Russian market. Serov held out the prospect of an additional 500 billion ruble credit in the second half of the year, if the first credit is used successfully. Lukashenka obtained the release of the funds at a tense meeting with Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on June 17 in Sochi, where the Belarusan president also demanded an increase in Russian oil and gas deliveries. (Russian agencies, June 17-18)
In several angry statements last week, including a prosecutorial sounding speech to the Russian-Belarus Union’s Parliamentary Assembly, Lukashenka accused top Russian officials including Chernomyrdin of sabotaging the Union in its economic aspects. The Belarusan president listed his economic demands, including: release of the 500 billion state credit; release of another, equally delayed, 800 billion ruble credit to Belarus as part of a 2.5 trillion ruble package earmarked by Moscow for all CIS countries; recalculation of Russian excise duties on goods imported from Belarus; higher oil and gas supplies; and delivery of Russian raw diamonds for processing in Belarus.
Ukrainian Miners Stage Protests in Kyiv.