Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 194

Belarus president Aleksandr Lukashenko conferred yesterday in Moscow with Russian president Boris Yeltsin, prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov, and defense minister Igor Rodionov on bilateral relations and the constitutional conflict in Belarus. The constitutional conflict involves the referendum that Lukashenko has unilaterally scheduled for November 7 in a bid for sweeping powers. A showdown in Minsk is believed possible as early as October 19, when the president will address a Soviet-style "Congress of the Belarus People" to offset a pro-parliament rally "in defense of the constitution against dictatorship."

Official Russian statements after yesterday’s talks expressed continued support for Lukashenko’s referendum while also advising him to seek "social peace and stability" and a compromise with the parliament. Lukashenko was urged to reschedule his referendum to November 24 — the date set by the parliament for a referendum on both the presidential and the parliament’s constitutional drafts — and to give up a ballot proposition designed to elicit a vote against private land ownership. The talks were also said to cover common efforts toward unification of national legislations and economic "integration" issues. Yeltsin, co-chairman with Lukashenko of the Russia-Belarus Community of States, asked Lukashenko to redouble his "integrationist" efforts during Yeltsin’s illness. Lukashenko was also received by Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Aleksy II. (Interfax, October 16).

Moscow is clearly interested in Lukashenko’s victory and has been organizing this type of visit for him at regular intervals to enhance his standing domestically. Yesterday’s talks signaled that Moscow continues to rely on Lukashenko for promoting Russia-Belarus "integration." At the same time Moscow wants Lukashenko to bring the legislature, or at least a part of it, on board that policy. However, the concessions recommended to Lukashenko are too minor to produce any real compromise with the parliament.

Europe Turns to Belarus.