Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov and Belarusan president Alyaksandr Lukashenka exchanged yesterday in Minsk the instruments of ratification of the Russia-Belarus Union. Describing the union as a first step toward reconstituting the USSR, Lukashenka praised Primakov’s role as "an engine in the movement toward that goal." The Belarusan president also ticked off a list of thinly disguised economic requests that he said he is about to submit to the top Russian leadership. For his part, Primakov declared that "we will not shrink from paying the price" of union with Belarus. The Russian foreign minister described the Russia-Belarus Union as a move to "reverse the tendency toward separation of states" and as holding the promise of "democratization of society." (Russian agencies, June 11)
Primakov’s apparent readiness to see Moscow subsidize Belarus is not shared by reformers in the Russian government, who have thus far prevailed over Primakov and Deputy Prime Minister Valery Serov on this issue. The foreign minister’s arguments about reversing alleged European trends toward disintegration and promoting democracy in Belarus through union with Russia form part of Moscow’s attempts to obtain international acceptance of this union.
Presidents of Azerbaijan and Kazakstan Coordinate Policy on Oil Issues.