Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 180

Yevgeny Primakov paid a visit to Belarus yesterday, his first visit outside Russia as prime minister of that country. He concurrently took over the chairmanship of the Executive Committee of the Russia-Belarus Union, the top intergovernmental body in charge of economic, political and military programs. Primakov carried a “very warm” message from President Boris Yeltsin to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who described the document with satisfaction as “containing radical ideas” to develop the Russia-Belarus Union.

Primakov described this union as important not only to the two partners, but to CIS countries in general–as a potential nucleus of integration. By the same token, Primakov confided, “any unnecessary reverses of this union would dissuade other countries from joining it.” Lukashenka, concurring, reaffirmed that he and Primakov are “like-minded men” (yedinomyshlenniki).

Primakov agreed that Belarus could repay its arrears to Russia (more than US$200 million for natural gas) through deliveries of Belarusan industrial goods and foodstuffs, instead of hard cash. He also agreed in principle to provide a state credit to Belarus for purchasing truck engines from Russia’s Yaroslavl plant. The engines are to be installed on trucks made by the Belarusan MAZ plant, a Soviet-era dinosaur whose products Lukashenka is desperate to market in Russia and elsewhere. Both the debt settlement scheme and the industrial credit had earlier been blocked by market-oriented, budget-conscious officials in the preceding Russian governments (Itar-Tass and other Russian agencies, September 30).