Belarusan minister for CIS affairs Ivan Bambiza stated yesterday that a "consensus" between Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Aleksandr Lukashenko had opened the way in 1997 for joint measures in the "priority areas" of national security, foreign policy, and protection of the internal market — listed in that order. In Moscow, Justice Ministers Valentin Kovalev and Valyantsin Sukalo signed an agreement on joint work toward "unifying the legislations of Russia and Belarus." The agreement envisages elimination of existing discrepancies and joint drafting of legislation for subsequent submission to the parliaments.
For the third consecutive day yesterday scores of Popular Front supporters picketed the Russian embassy in Minsk with slogans proclaiming that "Belarus must remain European" and "We don’t want to be Gazprom’s colony." In an open letter to Lukashenko, the prominent writer Ivan Shamyakin protested against official "discrimination against the Belarusan language" in favor of the Russian language, despite the fact that Belarusan is by law the country’s state language. Russia’s PEN Center demanded the release of Belarusan writer Slavomir Adamovich, detained on charges of having insulted Lukashenko.
The Belarusan authorities, meanwhile, tried but failed to bring charges against another prominent detainee, Tamara Vinnikova, the dismissed president of the National Bank. KGB investigators linked Vinnikova to the fall of the Belarusan ruble on the Interbank market following the January 13 announcement of Boris Yeltsin’s plan to unite Belarus to Russia. One of the country’s leading lawyers, Gary Pahanaylo, took over Vinnikova’s defense. Last year Pahanaylo had volunteered to defend free of charge citizens whose rights were violated through the application of Lukashenko’s 16 decrees — which the Constitutional Court had pronounced unconstitutional. (Belapan, Interfax, Itar-Tass, January 15 and 16; UNHCR, CIS Digest, January 16)
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