LUKASHENKO THREATENS RUSSIAN MEDIA
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 22, 2001, p. 5
President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus severely criticized the Russian media before leaving Moscow. The Belarussian leader does not like the way the Russian media have been covering the election campaign in his country. Lukashenko complained that Russia, although it’s the closest ally of Belarus, is actually damaging the interests of Belarus. Lukashenko views Russian media coverage as a provocation, but at the same time he has promised not to take any measures against Russian journalists until the end of the presidential campaign. However, after the election Lukashenko intends to consider the issue of which Russian media will be permitted to operate in Belarus. This statement implies Lukashenko’s confidence in his victory in the presidential election.
Lukashenko has apparently been hurt by reports that he came to Moscow in order to ask the Russian authorities for support in the election. He denied these reports, saying he needs no support other than that of the Belarussian people. He stated that he discussed the election situation only with the president of the Russian Federation. During this discussion Lukashenko was said to have invited observers from Russia and other CIS countries to monitor the election in Belarus.
Lukashenko also expressed his dissatisfaction with the pace of integration of Russia and Belarus. In his opinion, progress on implementing the union treaty could be more rapid, “but some political processes within Russia are delaying it.” In this regard, Lukashenko announced that the Russia-Belarus Union can only be based on equal rights for both members – otherwise “it would collapse like a house of cards” and would not be attractive for other CIS countries who might wish to join the alliance. In Lukashenko’s opinion, “one such country is Armenia: it is watching the integration process to find out if Russia will swallow Belarus, or whether this will be an alliance of two fully-fledged nations.”
A PROSECUTOR DISAPPEARS?
Izvestia, June 22, 2001, p. 3
Several Russian media outlets have reported that Oleg Bozhelko, a former general prosecutor of Belarus, has disappeared. However, the PR Department of the Belarus General Prosecutor’s Office has denied these reports. Alexei Taranov, Director of the PR Department, has called these rumors “another political provocation in the lead-up to the presidential election.”
Taranov stated that there are people who can prove that Bozhelko is alive and well. According to Taranov, reports that Bozhelko allegedly left Minsk for Moscow and hasn’t been seen since are mere rumors. However, Taranov did not say anything that could at least indirectly prove that Bozhelko is alive and well. He did not say anything about Bozhelko’s current whereabouts.
Oleg Bozhelko was dismissed on November 27, 2000. According to the official explanation, the reason for his dismissal as general prosecutor was a transfer to another job. However, there is some evidence that the president of Belarus decided to change the team of people investigating highly-publicized cases of disappearances. Not a single clear explanation for any of the cases was given when Bozhelko was the general prosecutor. There are no such explanations now either.
RUSSIAN SCIENTISTS PROTEST AGAINST FUNDING CUTS
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, June 22, 2001, p. 3
On June 21, Russian scientists protested against funding cuts for research. Academic research which does not yield immediate financial returns is in trouble. Academician Vladimir Strakhov, head of the Earth Sciences Institute, said that by saving money at the expense of research, Russia is becoming a “banana republic.” Only research connected with space will receive extra funding next year. As for other sciences, budget spending on them will again be reduced next year. Thus, the law on academic research, which stipulates that at least 4% of budget spending should go into research, will once again be unfulfilled.
The scientists were also supported by Academician Yevgeny Primakov, a former prime minister and current Duma deputy, who sent a telegram to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov on Wednesday.
In the afternoon the scientists were followed by coal miners. The Moscow city authorities did not want to permit their demonstration at first, but then consented to it on the condition that there would be no tent camp. The main demand of the miners is that the “anti-people draft Labor Code” should not be passed.
Meanwhile, the Duma has been considering when the draft Labor Code will be debated. The first reading of this draft is scheduled for July 5.
LEGISLATIVE BRANCH READY TO BURY THE LAND CODE
Izvestia, June 22, 2001, p. 1
On June 15, the draft Land Code was passed by the Duma. This procedure was accompanied by major disputes in the Duma. On June 21, the Legislative Assembly of the Nizhny Novgorod Region rejected this draft code. If 30 Russian regions vote against it, the draft Land Code will be automatically rejected, since land issues are handled both by the federal government and regional governments. In this case, a new coordination commission will be convened.
The compromise position of the president and the Cabinet has enabled the leftist minority to openly attack the draft Land Code even after it was approved in the first reading. Although the Duma has practically no chance of holding a referendum, it could well bury the draft code via its regional counterparts. The position of the regions has always been consolidated, and if this draft Land Code is blocked, the executive branch will suffer its first political defeat since Vladimir Putin became president.