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Russia/Belarus: Mixed Reactions To Cooperation Agreement

Prague, 3 April 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The signing of a scaled-down version of a union accord between Russia and Belarus met today with mixed reactions inside both countries and abroad.

In Minsk, Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich praised the accord as "a model for Europe." At the same time Antanovich warned journalists against waging an "information war" against Belarus.

In Moscow, the cooperation agreement was welcomed by speakers of both houses of the Russian parliament. Gennady Seleznyov, of the Communist-dominated State Duma, said he was confident the accord and the union charter would be ratified before Parliament goes into summer recess July 1.

Yegor Stroyev, of the Federation Council, said the union had nothing in common with the former Soviet Union and rejected claims it would put a new economic burden upon Russia.

Yelena Bonner, widow of Soviet dissident and Nobel peace laureate Andrei Sakharov, said the Russian leadership had cheated the Russian people by negotiating the agreement behind their backs and accused the Kremlin of turning a blind eye to a lack of democracy in Belarus.

Neighboring Poland reacted with a mixture of caution and concern. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the accord posed no immediate threat to Poland but Bronislaw Geremek, head of the parliamentary foreign relations committee, expressed concern about long term implications of the agreement.

In Chisinau, Moldovan President Petru Lucinski said the agreement falls within international norms and that ties within the CIS should be based on bilateral relations and regional unions.