Books on Belarus
Update No: 312 - (20/12/06)
Admission of electoral fraud - against himself
President Alexander Lukashenka is among other things a clown. He is now making
out that the vote that saw him elected in March was, indeed, rigged as
international observers claimed at the time, but against himself.
On November 23rd he acknowledged that he rigged the March presidential election.
But he claimed to have stolen the vote from himself, not from the opposition.
"Yes, we falsified the last election. I have already told the Westerners
[about this]. As many as 93.5 per cent of voters voted for President Lukashenka.
But they said this was not a 'European' result. So we made it 86 [per cent].
That is true," Lukashenka said. "If we were to start recounting
ballots now, I don't know what we would do with them. The Europeans told us
before the election that if there were 'European' figures in the election, they
would recognize our election. And we tried to make European figures."
If Lukashenka, in fact, went to such lengths to be recognized by Europe to no
avail, then it is easy to understand why Lukashenka is becoming increasingly
bitter toward Europe, in particular, and the West in general.
He and fifty of his top people are banned from traveling to Europe. He has
retaliated by putting 50 high officials of the EU on a black list; they are
unable to travel to Belarus.
Lukashenka Eyes Union With Ukraine
Belarus's president made some surprising announcements on November 23rd as Minsk
prepared to host a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Meeting in the Belarusian capital with a group of Ukrainian journalists,
President Lukashenka informed them that Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko
had "announced" that he would not be coming to the CIS summit on
November 28th, proposed the formation of a Ukrainian-Belarusian state, and even
admitted to rigging Belarus's last presidential election.
News To Ukraine
The news that the Ukrainian president would not be coming to the summit came as
quite a shock to the journalists, as neither Yushchenko nor any of his aides had
issued such a statement. Later in the day, Vitaliy Hayduk, secretary of
Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, refuted Lukashenka's comments
by saying Yushchenko was, in fact, planning to visit Minsk, which he duly did.
Apparently out of concern that Yushchenko would not be meeting with Lukashenka,
the Belarusian president had touted the potential success of such talks.
"If only Belarus and Ukraine could reach an agreement, the configuration of
economic and political relations in the region would completely change,"
Asked by the Ukrainian journalists to clarify what he had in mind, Lukashenka
said Minsk and Kyiv could work out a joint stance on "oil and gas
issues," including a coordinated policy on tariffs for Russian gas transit
to Europe. "What if we pursued a single policy in talks with Russia on this
matter?" Lukashenka said. "Would it be worse? It would be better. So
let's do it."
Lukashenka did not conceal his concern over Moscow's declared intention to
increase the price it charges for natural-gas exports to Belarus in 2007.
Belarus could find itself paying as much as US$200 per 1,000 cubic meters
compared to the current rate of US$47. By insisting on the price hike, Gazprom
has made clear that it wants Lukashenka to give up control over Beltranshaz,
Belarus's gas pipeline operator.
After complaining to the Ukrainian journalists about the expected price
increase and about what he sees as Moscow's intention to put Belarusian economic
entities in a disadvantageous position compared to Russian businesses,
Lukashenka admitted that he would welcome the idea of forming a union state with
He went so far as to suggest that, because of the "comparable" sizes
of the two states, such a union might even be more feasible than one with
According to the Belarusian president, such a political formation could face a
bright future. "Pray God it happens some time. Believe me, everybody would
have to take this [Belarusian-Ukrainian] state into consideration,"
Lukashenka said. "We would bargain a great deal from the world for our
Vintsuk Vyachorka, leader of the Belarusian Popular Front, told RFE/RL's Belarus
Service that, in making such comments, Lukashenka is beginning to promote an
idea first proposed by the Belarusian opposition 15 years ago. At that time,
Vyachorka noted, the opposition sought to seek closer ties and, if possible, a
union with Ukraine and the Baltic states in order to counter Russia's political
and economic clout.
According to Vyachorka, such a move on the part of Lukashenka testifies to the
desperation of the Belarusian president in the face of Russia's economic
pressure. "I think that today Mr. Lukashenka has no response to this
challenge, to this deadlock into which he himself has brought our country,"
Is Lukashenka in a position to strong-arm Russia? Another prominent
opposition activist, United Civic Party deputy head Alyaksandr Dabravolski,
agrees with Vyachorka. But Dabravolski does not believe that Lukashenka is
serious in speaking about a union with Ukraine. According to Dabravolski,
Lukashenka is merely trying to blackmail Moscow.
"Now, when Russia wants to obtain actual money for its energy resources, it
has become apparent to everybody that there is nothing behind the
[Belarus-Russia] union state," Dabravolski said. "There is neither
foundations nor a roof. All opposition forces have warned that it is necessary
to talk with Russia about cooperation while taking into account real [national]
interests. Now, as usual, Lukashenka will try using blackmail or
Did Lukashenka broach the union idea to Yushchenko when the Ukrainian president
did, in fact, go to Minsk? It is quite reasonable to assume that when they met,
the issue of Russian gas supplies to, and Russian gas transit across, Belarus
and Ukraine came up. Both countries now seem to have similar problems in
ensuring their energy security.
In other respects, however, any potential understanding between Lukashenka and
Yushchenko is unlikely. In March, Ukraine held parliamentary elections that were
praised in Europe as almost exemplarily fair and democratic. The same month,
Lukashenka was re-elected for his third-straight term in a ballot that was
internationally decried as deeply flawed and fraudulent.
It would be unrealistic for Lukashenka to expect sympathy, either publicly or
privately, from a Ukrainian counterpart enjoying the positive international
response to the Orange Revolution and successful parliamentary elections.
Belarus calls for energy imports diversification
Belarus is not looking for an alternative to Russian energy resources, but does
intend to diversify energy imports, Foreign Minister, Sergei Martynov, told a
news conference in Minsk on November 29th, Interfax News Agency reported.
"We have no alternative to Russian oil or gas. It would be short-sighted
(not to find an alternative) to say the least, but we must think of energy
security and increase the number of supports on which energy security
rests," Interfax quoted him as saying. "While advancing strategic
cooperation with Russia in the energy sector we are also trying to look for
additional sources of necessary energy resources," he said.
Martynov said that the meeting of the presidents of Azerbaijan, Belarus and
Ukraine was held within the framework of these efforts. "The presidents
concluded that there are possibilities for such cooperation and there is
potential for interaction in the energy sector," he said. The trilateral
meeting discussed oil deliveries and refinery, the delivery and transit of
electricity and the prospects of cooperation in the gas sector.
Beltransgaz market value at US$10-17 billion
Beltransgaz's market value is between US$10 billion and US$17 billion,
Belarussian Prime Minister, Sergei Sidorsky, said. Gazprom offered Beltransgaz a
gas supply contract based on a price of US$200 per 1,000 cubic metres.
"From the point of view of Belarus, the market price for Beltransgaz is
US$10-17 billion. Proceeding from this, we are in negotiations," Sidorsky
said on December 7th. Belarus bases its valuation on the sale of a similar gas
transport system in the Czech Republic. Sidorsky also said the sides are to
create a joint venture before the year-end. "The work of the appraiser is
finished. Individual issues are being agreed," Interfax News Agency quoted
him as saying.