Russia cements links with stricken Belarus
Back in the USSR: Deal falls short of re-creating Soviet Union but provokes anger on streets of Minsk and concern in West
Wednesday 03 April 1996
Yesterday's peaceful rally was smaller than one last month, when Belarussians thought the President was about to surrender their national sovereignty. But it was enough to sour the atmosphere on the day that Mr Yeltsin and Mr Lukashenko launched their Community of Sovereign Republics, which creates the closest economic and political partnership of any ex-Soviet republics.
Because Belarus is in deeper economic trouble than Russia, Mr Lukashenko has been pressing for the closest possible relationship. But Mr Yeltsin has been more cautious, lest Belarus becomes a burden.
Under the deal, each side will preserve its independence, territorial integrity, flag and national anthem. The republics will co-ordinate foreign policy and work out common defence principles. By the end of next year they aim to have their economic reforms synchronised, so that a common market becomes possible. "This document opens a qualitatively new stage in the history of our two brotherly peoples," Mr Yelstin said at the ceremony in the Kremlin's St George's Hall. Mr Lukashenko said Belarus and Russia were following the example of the European Union.
The new mini-community is open to other members of the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States but they have preferred to keep a greater distance.
The signing is a boost for Mr Yeltsin, who is running for re-election in June. Under pressure from the Communists, calling for the restoration of the Soviet Union, he will be able to tell voters that his alternative policy of seeking voluntary integration among ex-Soviet republics is bearing fruit.
But he cannot yet say the same about his plan to end the Chechnya war, seen as crucial to his chances of winning a second term. Yesterday the Chechen separatist leader, Dzhokhar Dudayev, wielded his power to influence the election and kept his enemy in the Kremlin waiting for a response to his peace initiative.
Fighting continued in Chechnya despite Mr Yeltsin's announcement of an end to military operations and a partial troop pull-out. On Sunday he said a campaign last month had left federal forces controlling two-thirds of Chechen territory, enabling a withdrawal of units not needed for the fight against "terrorists". He called for parliamentary elections and, surprisingly, offered talks through mediators with General Dudayev, whom Moscow has up to now called a criminal.
But 48 hours after Mr Yeltsin's speech there was a resounding silence from the mountains of southern Chechnya, where General Dudayev has hidden since being forced out of his capital, Grozny, last year. In a telephone call to Russian television, one of his fighters said the Muslim Chechens would not respond officially until their top leadership had met. But General Dudayev's spokesman, Movladi Udugov, gave a fair indication of the likely reaction when he told Ekho Moskvy radio: "All the political steps taken by the Russian side can be no more than pre-election action with the aim of raising Yeltsin's authority and making him Russian president for a second term."
- 1 'Not suppost to cry': 9-year-old lists the worst things about being a boy
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Anti-gay hate preacher accidentally tweets 4,000 followers cartoon clip of him 'confessing' to be a 'homosexual sodomite'
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Ryan Gosling granted temporary restraining order against a woman 'convinced she was his twin flame'
Jennifer Lawrence sings in new The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt 1 clip on YouTube
Anti-gay hate preacher accidentally tweets 4,000 followers cartoon clip of him 'confessing' to be a 'homosexual sodomite'
Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Myleene Klass: Ed Miliband 'strikes back' by comparing UK's need for Labour's mansion tax to Hear'Say track
Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...
£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...