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Belarus: Lukashenka Backs Off Common-Currency Deal With Russia

Minsk, 1 July 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has backtracked on a common-currency deal with Russia, hours before the agreement was to go into effect. Last month, Belarus and Russia signed an agreement making the Russian ruble the common currency in both countries. The first step of the transition was to begin today.

However, speaking on state-run television last night, Lukashenka said he will not allow the change because the agreement with Russia-- which he signed -- violates the Belarusian Constitution.

Lukashenka also said the Russian government has not answered the question of whether the introduction of the ruble will destroy Belarusian sovereignty.

The head of the Belarusian Constitutional Court, Ryhor Vasilevich, said the only way the Russian ruble will become legal currency in Belarus will be through a national referendum.