Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 91

Russian and Belarusan Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Aleksandr Lukashenko will meet in Moscow on May 23 to sign the union charter between their two countries, Yeltsin’s press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembsky announced yesterday. Yastrzhembsky said Yeltsin has given instructions that an updated draft of the charter must be on the desks of the two presidents by May 15. Yastrzhembsky acknowledged that agreeing on a final draft may not be clear sailing, but denied that disagreements would be serious enough to hold up the signing. "It is no problem if two or three unresolved issues remain in the draft," Yastrzhembsky said, adding that Yeltsin is confident that any remaining problems can be resolved by the two presidents when they meet. (Itar-Tass, Interfax, May 7)

Meanwhile, Russian parliamentarian Nikolai Gonchar, a passionate supporter of union with Belarus, has urged Yeltsin to hold a national referendum on the issue. He says the union of the two countries constitutes so radical a change in Russia’s state structure that the president cannot decide the matter alone but must refer it to the nation. Gonchar offers Yeltsin a tempting bait: the establishment of an entirely new state entity would, he says, enable Yeltsin to run for president for a third time. Under Russia’s present constitution, Yeltsin will have to stand down after two terms in 2000. (Moskovsky komsomolets, May 5)

More Positive Signals from Moscow on NATO Agreement.