Russian president Boris Yeltsin yesterday blocked Belarusan president Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s visit to the Russian regions of Lipetsk and Yaroslavl, scheduled for October 2-4. Yeltsin ordered the Russian air control system to deny access to Lukashenka’s plane. Explaining his action to journalists, Yeltsin claimed that Lukashenka had failed to "coordinate" the visit with him, as protocol would have required. However, Yeltsin added in the next breath: "Let him first release [Russian ORT TV correspondent] Sheremet. So there!" In fact, Lukashenka had announced his visit and discussed it with Yeltsin back in early September. Yeltsin’s gesture is more likely to represent a long-overdue toughening of his position on the case of Sheremet, the ORT Minsk bureau chief jailed by the KGB of Belarus since July 25 and due to stand trial shortly on criminal charges. (Russian agencies, October 2)
In a September 30 interview with Yaroslavl television that was also broadcast in Belarus, Lukashenka had personally attacked Russia’s first deputy prime ministers Boris Nemtsov and Anatoly Chubais for allegedly pressuring Belarus to privatize industrial assets "for a pittance" and "for the benefit of Russia’s swindlers." In the same interview, Lukashenka accused the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, Boris Berezovsky, of "earning millions of dollars through contraband via Belarus… I stopped his cargoes more than once. Would he forgive me for this?" Lukashenka asked rhetorically. (Radio Minsk, September 30)
The Belarusan dictator was due to have signed with the governor of Yaroslavl an agreement creating a major joint venture among former flagships of the Soviet automotive industry: the truck-making MAZ of Minsk and the engine-manufacturing Avtodizel of Yaroslavl. The operational agreement, however, was signed on September 30 by Russian deputy prime minister Valery Serov and his Belarusan counterpart, Ivan Dalhalev. Moreover, they signed an agreement under which Russia is to grant a credit of 500 billion rubles to finance the initial stage of the joint venture and another venture to manufacture agricultural machinery. (Russian agencies, September 30-October 1)
Ukrainian-Russian Consultative Council Formed.