Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 135

On the third anniversary of the election of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the legitimate parliament of Belarus yesterday issued an appeal to "Russia’s democratic forces" in which it expressed its "bewilderment over the Russian leadership’s attitude toward Lukashenka’s violations of democratic norms… That attitude suggests that the Russian leadership regards Belarus mainly as a corridor for gas pipelines and a site for military bases." The parliament warned against a "fusion of the two countries’ totalitarian and imperial traditions aiming toward restoration of the empire."

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, at a session just held in Warsaw, adopted a resolution describing the parliament forcibly dissolved by Lukashenka as "the sole lawful parliament of Belarus." Urging Lukashenka to recognize the legitimate parliament, the assembly seated its delegation and refused to invite the delegation of the parliament formed by the president. Russian deputies were alone in opposing the resolution, calling it "interference in the internal affairs of Belarus." The assembly considered the creation of a permanent OSCE observer office in Belarus — a proposal co-sponsored by the chairman of the legitimate parliament, Syamyon Sharetski. Russian Duma chairman Gennady Seleznev, newly elected as a vice-chairman of the assembly, claimed to have blocked the adoption of the proposal.

An unprecedented polemic meanwhile broke out between official Minsk and Moscow after the Belarusan authorities canceled the accreditation of Pavel Sheremet, a Russian ORT state television correspondent — for alleged "distortions" and "misinformation" in his reporting. (See Monitor, July 8) Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin described the measure as "scandalous" and faulted the Belarusan authorities for failing beforehand to discuss the case with the Russian government. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov called the measure "absolutely impermissible" and "an unfriendly act toward Russia." Nemtsov promised steps to reverse it and to prevent a recurrence. "Russia has sufficient leverage to defend its journalists," he warned. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s chief spokesman expressed "concern and regret" and called for reconsideration of the measure. Significantly, Chernomyrdin and Nemtsov — though not the Foreign Ministry which handles the case — invoked the Russia-Belarus Union Charter’s provisions guaranteeing the free flow of information in both countries.

Belarusan foreign minister Ivan Antanovich responded yesterday by rejecting Nemtsov’s "unacceptable threats" and the "humiliation of our national dignity." Antanovich demanded that Sheremet officially apologize for his reporting as a condition for reaccreditation. In a parallel statement, the Belarusan Foreign Ministry asked the Russian government to "stop the vicious anti-Belarus propaganda in Russian state media." The ministry also made public a July 2 warning it had addressed to the Russian government over Russian television’s "attacks on the leadership and people of Belarus." On July 7, Lukashenka had in turn accused Russian television networks of using "Jesuit methods" in order to lead the Russian and Belarusan audiences astray from the truth. (Belapan, Russian agencies, July 8-10)

Ukrainian Prime Minister Candidate Bows Out.