The dollar value of Russian imports from and exports to the other CIS countries recorded in January was some 21 percent below the levels of January 1996, according to officials in the Foreign Trade Ministry. (Interfax, March 19) The $2 billion in total trade turnover reflected a 38 percent decline in exports to other CIS countries, as well as a 1 percent decline in Russian imports from these countries. Some 60 percent of Russia’s export revenues were accounted for by natural gas exports shipped by Gazprom’s wholly-owned GazExport subsidiary, which, by government decree, is Russia’s sole natural gas exporter. By contrast, the export of oil and coal declined by 43 and 55 percent, respectively.
While these trade figures suggest that economic ties between Russia and the other CIS countries are weakening, they also reflect the fact that many CIS countries simply do not have the foreign exchange needed to purchase energy imports, either from Russia or from other suppliers. On the other hand, the economic growth that many CIS countries reported in 1996 suggests that they are increasingly able to find other sources of imports, as well as export markets, outside of the region.
Lukashenko Moves Against Foreign Foundations, Threatens to Prosecute Opponents.