Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 127

The leaders of Russian and Belarus are apparently not reading from the same script when it comes to plans for uniting the two countries. According to one report, Russian President Boris Yeltsin is pushing for a version of a Russia-Belarus union in which the latter would be incorporated into the former either as a single region or six separate regions. Belarusan leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka, meanwhile, wants the union to be the merger of two equals, and is hardly likely to be happy to simply become, in essence, one of ninety Russian regional leaders. Along with the recalcitrance of the Belarusan leader, the Russian side is faced with the problem that the process of making Belarus a subject (or multiple subjects) of the Russian Federation would require either changes in Russia’s constitution or time-consuming legal maneuvering to get around it. If Yeltsin is indeed looking at a potential Russia-Belarus union as a way to give himself a de facto third term in power, he must act quickly, given that presidential elections are only a year off (Segodnya, July 1).

Lukashenka will reportedly come to Moscow soon to discuss the issue with Yeltsin, but statements he made yesterday underscored his unhappiness with the Russian president. Lukashenka said that he would run for the post of union head once a merger between the two states was completed (Russian agencies, June 30). Earlier, Lukashenka had indicated that he would be happy to let Yeltsin be the first union president.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), said yesterday that a comprehensive treaty creating a Russia-Belarus Union should be signed by the end of this year, with a referendum on the union to be held next year and elections for a union president and parliament to be held in 2002 or 2003. The LDPR leader also called for Russia’s next scheduled parliamentary election, scheduled for December of this year, to be cancelled, and urged that the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) be banned. Zhirinovsky said that the body of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin should be removed from Red Square, cremated and reburied in Volkovo cemetery in St. Petersburg. The ultranationalist added that if the KPRF is banned, Lenin’s body reburied and emergency rule imposed in Moscow and the North Caucasus, the State Duma will not be able to oppose the moves, because the body’s communist deputies “will be placed under house arrest (Russian agencies, June 30).

While Zhirinovsky has made a career of being the bad boy of Russian politics, his predictions of the Kremlin’s future behavior have often been accurate. Yeltsin this week gave hints that he may be contemplating a ban on the KPRF (see the Monitor, June 29-30). Earlier this year, Zhirinovsky predicted that Yeltsin would merge Russia with Belarus as a way to remain in power.