Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 92 Part II, 15 May 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 92  Part II, 15 May 1998

A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern
Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by
the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

This is Part II, a compilation of news concerning Central,
Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Part I covers Russia,
Transcaucasia and Central Asia and is distributed
simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL
Newsline and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's
Web site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxSPECIAL REPORTxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
COMMUNIST HOUSING: A FLAW IN THE DESIGN
More than 170 million people in Eastern Europe and the
former Soviet Union live in decaying housing complexes. This
five-part series examines the issues, compares East Berlin's
rehabilitation success story with Prague's less than
successful efforts, and describes the state of U.S. public
housing.
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/housing/

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Headlines, Part II

* CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS SPEAKER, DISMISSES CABINET

* YUGOSLAVIA STRESSES KOSOVAR INDEPENDENCE NOT AN OPTION

* CROATIA RELENTS ON REFUGEE LEGISLATION

End Note: RE-DEVELOPING DEVELOPED SOCIALISM IN BELARUS
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REGIONAL AFFAIRS

CONTINUED CONTROVERSY OVER RATIFYING RUSSIA-UKRAINE TREATY.
Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told ITAR-TASS
on 14 May that "the treaty with Ukraine will be ratified
when the Supreme Council of Ukraine considers the issue of
the division of the Black Sea Fleet." Hennadiy Udovenko,
former Ukrainian foreign minister, commented to the news
agency that Seleznev's stance is "absolutely erroneous" and
that the ratification of the treaty should not be linked to
the ratification of a package of three agreements on the
Black Sea Fleet's division. Meanwhile, speaking to
journalists on 13 May and in an interview with the Kyiv
official daily "Uryadovyy kuryer" published the next day,
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk said he hopes the
Russian-Ukrainian treaty will be ratified prior to Russian
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's visit to Kyiv scheduled
for 26-27 May. The treaty was signed by the presidents of
the two countries last May. JM

UKRAINE, BP DISCUSS CASPIAN OIL EXPORT. President Leonid
Kuchma held talks in Kyiv on 14 May with the president of
British Petroleum, Ian Rushby, Interfax reported. The talks
touched on the export of Azerbaijani Caspian oil via the
Odessa-Brody pipeline, which is currently under
construction. A major partner in the first international
consortium created to develop Azerbaijan's offshore oil
fields, BP is lukewarm about the proposed construction of
the Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline. Rushby confirmed that
more than one pipeline would be used for the export of
Azerbaijani oil from Baku. Also on 14 May, the Ukrainian
government issued instructions to the State Committee for
the Oil and Gas Industry to draw up plans for creating an
international consortium to complete construction of the
Odessa-Brody pipeline and the Odessa oil terminal, which
will have an annual capacity of 12 million metric tons. LF

EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS SPEAKER, DISMISSES CABINET. By a
vote of 52 to 39, the Supreme Council of the Autonomous
Republic of Crimea on 14 May elected Communist leader Leonid
Hrach as speaker. According to ITAR-TASS, the standoff
between the Communists and their adversaries (see RFE/RL
"Newsline," 30 April 1998) was resolved in a political deal
whereby the Communists will "pay" for Hrach's election by
agreeing to the appointment of Serhiy Kunitsyn, leader of
the bloc of parliamentary centrist factions, as prime
minister. Immediately after his election, Hrach proposed a
motion to dismiss Anatoliy Franchuk's government, and the
legislature passed a resolution terminating the government's
tenure and ordering the ministers to fulfill their duties
until a new cabinet is appointed. Hrach is reportedly to
meet soon with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to seek his
approval for Kunitsyn's appointment as Crimean premier. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REGISTERS EIGHT FACTIONS. The Supreme
Council has registered eight factions, ITAR-TASS reported on
14 May. The Communists have the largest faction, with 119
deputies. They are followed by the Popular Democratic Party
(84), the Popular Rukh (47), the Hromada party (39), the
Socialists/Peasants bloc (35), the Greens (24), the Social
Democrats (24), the Progressive Socialists (17). Of the 430
approved deputies, 41 have not declared affiliation with any
faction. JM

MINSK DEMONSTRATION SUPPORTS POLITICAL PRISONERS. Some 2,000
young people took part in an authorized march in Minsk on 14
May organized by the opposition Young Front in support of
political prisoners, RFE/RL Belarusian Service and Western
agencies reported. The demonstrators carried placards
demanding the release of Alyaksey Shydlouski and Pavel
Sevyarynets and protesting the official crackdown on
independent media. A handful of arrests were reported;
otherwise, the march took place without incident. JM

INDEPENDENT MEDIA FACE MORE PROBLEMS IN OBTAINING OFFICIAL
INFORMATION. A poll conducted by the Belapan news agency
among editors of non-state newspapers in Belarus shows that
those publications have recently faced a growing number of
difficulties in obtaining official information from the
authorities. The editors link this situation to the
directive prohibiting state bodies and officials from
passing on information to independent media and from making
comments to them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1998).
According to Belapan director Ales Lipay, the directive has
primarily hampered the work of regional correspondents,
since the regional authorities are particularly assiduous in
rigorously fulfilling the order. JM

LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SURVIVES NO CONFIDENCE VOTE. Valdis
Birkavs survived a vote of no confidence in the parliament
on 14 May, BNS reported The motion was proposed by
opposition deputies who said Birkavs had not shown enough
initiative in solving disputes with Russia. It was defeated
by a vote of 44 to 15. Also on 14 May, some 400 ethnic
Russian students protested in Riga against the Latvian
government's language policy. The students demanded the
right to study in their own language and called for giving
Russian the status of official language. JC

ADAMKUS PROPOSES NEW SECURITY CHIEF. Following the
resignation of Jurgis Jurgelis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14
May 1998), Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus has proposed
Mecis Laurinkus as director-general of the State Security
Department, Interfax reported on 14 May. A deputy chairman
of the ruling Conservative Party, Laurinkus has headed the
parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee since late 1996.
>From 1990-1991, he was chief of the State Security
Department. JC

LITHUANIA SIMPLIFIES VISA PROCEDURES FOR NEIGHBORS.
Lithuania has simplified its visa procedures for citizens of
Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, Lithuanian Foreign Ministry
official Arturas Zurauskas told ITAR-TASS on 14 May. He said
that citizens of the three countries wishing to make
business or other trips for up to 10 days no longer need a
written invitation. They must still, however, prove they can
pay $60 a day per person for lodging and medical insurance.
A consular fee must also be paid. The official said the
streamlined procedure aims to boost business and tourism
links with Lithuania. JC

POLISH DEPUTY PREMIER DENIES ALLEGED COLLABORATION. Janusz
Tomaszewski, Polish deputy premier and minister of internal
affairs and administration, has denied media allegations
that he falsely declared he had not collaborated with the
communist-era secret police. (Under a law adopted in 1997,
Polish senior officials are obliged to make written
declarations on whether they were secret police agents.)
Tomaszewski has demanded apologies from the media. To date,
one radio and three television journalists have been
suspended for reporting the allegation. According to
"Rzeczpospolita" on 15 May, Wieslaw Walendziak, chief of the
Prime Minister's Office, who is reportedly seeking
Tomaszewski's job, originally made the allegation to the
media. JM

POLISH GOVERNMENT TO PRIVATIZE OIL SECTOR. The government on
14 May approved a plan to privatize the oil sector. Shares
will be sold in Koncern Naftowy, a new company merging the
Petrochemia Plock refinery and the CPN fuel retailer,
"Zycie" reported. Poland's second-largest refinery,
Rafineria Gdanska, is also to be privatized after some 200
gasoline stations have been transferred to it from CPN. JM

CZECH POLL SHOWS SOCIALIST SUPPORT WANING. A public opinion
poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research
in late April and early May shows that support for the
opposition Social Democratic Party (CSSD) is waning, Reuters
reported on 13 May. The CSSD's backing dropped from 25
percent in early April to 22 percent at the beginning of
this month, while support for the Civic Democratic Party
(ODS) rose from 11 percent to 14 percent. The newly formed
Pensioners' Party has doubled its backing from 5 percent to
10 percent. The Freedom Union, which broke from the ODS,
lost three percentage points to achieve 9 percent support,
while the Christian Democrats lost two percentage points and
are now backed by 6 percent. MS

FIDESZ LEADER SEEKS TO REASSURE BOURSE. Federation of Young
Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (FIDESZ-MPP) leader Viktor
Orban on 14 May visited the Budapest stock exchange in an
attempt to reassure investors that if his party wins the
elections, the economy will not suffer, Reuters and
Hungarian media reported. Stock exchange prices sharply
dropped after the 10 May electoral runoff (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 14 May 1998). Orban said that the FIDESZ-MPP's
economic policies mean stronger growth and a boost for small
and medium-sized enterprises but will not affect investors
in the financial sector. In another development, Christian
Democratic Party chairman Gyorgy Giczy has offered to resign
"if most county organizations wish so," assuming
responsibility for the poor performance of his party on 10
May. MS

WITHDRAWAL AGREEMENTS REACHED AHEAD OF HUNGARIAN RUNOFF. The
Socialist Party and their Free Democrats coalition partner
have concluded an agreement whereby their candidates will
withdraw from the 24 May runoff in favor of the best placed
candidates, Hungarian media reported on 14 May. Fifteen Free
Democrats are stepping down in favor of Socialist
candidates, while two Socialists are to do same for the
benefit of the Free Democrats. Meanwhile, the opposition
Democratic Forum has withdrawn its regional lists in favor
of FIDESZ-MPP in Szaolcs-Szatmar and Hajdu Bihar, the two
counties where elections are to be repeated owing to an
insufficient turnout on 10 May. The Christian Democrats
pulled out of the single-member constituency runoff in
Nyireseg in favor of the Smallholders but will retain its
county list. Finally, the People's Party has withdrawn all
its candidates in single-member constituencies in favor of
FIDESZ-MPP. MS

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

YUGOSLAVIA STRESSES KOSOVAR INDEPENDENCE NOT AN OPTION...
Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zividan Jovanovic on 14 May
stressed that Belgrade has not altered its position and that
it rules out independence for Kosova, AFP reported.
Jovanovic made his comments in Amsterdam on the eve of the
meeting in Belgrade between Kosova shadow-state President
Ibrahim Rugova and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He
said that some degree of autonomy for Serbia's southern
province is possible, but he did not elaborate. Veton
Surroi, a member of Rugova's delegation in Belgrade, said he
considers the meeting as the beginning of "political talks
that should pave the way for political negotiations." In
Strasbourg, the European Parliament urged both sides in the
conflict to agree on international mediation to help reach a
settlement. Belgrade has refused outside mediation, while
leading Kosovar officials have insisted on it. The absence
of international mediators at the talks in Belgrade has
caused a divide within the Kosovar leadership. PB

...WHILE FIGHTING CONTINUES IN PROVINCE. Fighting between
Serbian police and ethnic Albanians was reported outside
Prishtina on 14 May. Heavy artillery fire was audible and
smoke visible from an area southwest of the capital near
Djakovica. Serb police said the fighting started after
ethnic Albanians attacked a police station, injuring three
officers. The Kosova Information Center, which has links to
the Kosovar leadership, said that in the Orahovac region,
Serbian forces attacked several villages. Neither report was
independently confirmed. The Kosova leadership on 14 May
called for Serbian military forces to withdraw from the
province. PB

BOSNIAN SERB HARDLINER TO RETIRE FROM POLITICS. Momcilo
Krajisnik, the Serbian representative of the Bosnian
presidency, said on 14 May that he will leave politics when
his term expires, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.
Krajisnik made the announcement during an address to the
Bosnian Serb parliament in Banja Luka. Krajisnik equivocated
later, saying he "will try" to avoid being named as a
candidate in the future. The Bosnian presidential election
is scheduled for September. PB

SFOR TROOPS INSPECT BOSNIAN SERB INSTALLATIONS. NATO-led
peacekeeping troops completed a sweeping inspection of
Bosnian Serb government and security forces sites in the
Republika Srpska on 14 May, AFP reported. Some 500 soldiers
and 30 armed vehicles from NATO's Stabilization Force (SFOR)
took part in the operation. A statement by NATO said the
inspections were necessary because of the relocation of the
Bosnian Serb parliament from Pale to Banja Luka. The office
of Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian
presidency, was occupied during the sweep, as were police
stations, military barracks, and the new parliament building
in Banja Luka. UN police aided in the operation. Dragan
Kalinic, the president of the parliament, called the
inspections "illegal." PB

BOSNIAN SERB GOES ON TRIAL IN GERMANY. Maksim Sokolovic, who
is accused of murder, rape, and complicity in genocide, went
on trial on 14 May in Dusseldorf, AFP reported. Sokolovic,
who has lived in Germany since 1969 but returned to Bosnia
for the war from 1992-1995 to head a paramilitary unit,
denies the charges. He is the fourth Bosnian Serb to be
arrested in Germany for war crimes. At The Hague, judges
have decided to drop several charges against Goran Jelisic,
who refers to himself as the "Serb Adolf." Amending the
indictment against Jelisic is expected to speed up his
trial. He is still indicted on 18 counts of crimes against
humanity and 19 charges of war crimes. PB

CROATIA RELENTS ON REFUGEE LEGISLATION. The Croatian
government has issued revamped guidelines on the return of
Serbian refugees to Croatia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service
reported on 14 May. The new policies were approved at a
regular government session after international pressure was
put on Zagreb to accelerate the return of Serbian refugees
to their pre-war homes in Croatia. William Montgomery, the
U.S. ambassador in Zagreb, said the new guidelines should
allow Croatia to avoid sanctions that had been threatened by
Western countries if changes in refugee return policies were
not made. In other news, President Franjo Tudjman celebrated
a low-key 76th birthday in Zagreb, in sharp contrast to the
country-wide gala celebration that was staged last year.
Tudjman is reported to be suffering from cancer, although he
officially denies those reports. PB

CROATIAN OPPOSITION PARTY CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO RESIGN.
Mato Arlovic, the chairman of the Social Democratic Party's
parliamentary group, has called on the government to resign
from office or face a confidence vote, AFP reported. Arlovic
set a deadline of next week for the government to resign.
The call comes after the Constitutional Court ruled that the
government has deprived more than 800,000 pensioners of some
$5 million in pension payments over the last five years. The
government rejects the court's decision. Rudolf Mazuran, the
chairman of a pensioners' union, said he will take the case
to the European Court of Human Rights if Zagreb fails to
abide by the court decision. PB

MACEDONIAN BORDER GUARDS KILL ALBANIAN. One Albanian was
killed on 14 May when Macedonian border troops opened fire
on a group of Albanians attempting to cross into Macedonia,
AFP reported. The Macedonian Defense Ministry said the body
of the slain man has been returned to Albanian officials. It
said border troops had prevented two other groups from
entering Macedonia illegally. Ethnic Albanians make up some
25 percent of Macedonia's population. PB

SLOVENIAN OFFICIAL EXPECTS EU ENTRY IN TWO STAGES. Janez
Potocnik, Slovenia's chief negotiator with the EU, said on
14 May that he expects the six countries in the first wave
of EU accession to be admitted in two groups, Reuters
reported. Potocnik said Slovenia hopes to be admitted by
2003 and to qualify for monetary union two years later.
Potocnik said Ljubljana needs to reform its tax and pension
systems and its public utility and financial sectors.
Slovenia began membership negotiations with the EU in March.
PB

OPPOSITION TO RUN JOINT CANDIDATE IN BUCHAREST MAYORAL RACE.
Eight opposition parties on 13 May decided they will chose a
joint candidate to run against Viorel Lis, the candidate of
the Democratic Convention of Romania, in the Bucharest
mayoral elections. The joint candidate will be designated
after what has been called a "professional contest" among
five candidates. The five are Sorin Oprescu of the Party of
Social Democracy in Romania, Valentin Iliescu of the Party
of Romanian National Unity, Ion Sasu of the Socialist Labor
Party, Constantin Popovici of the Socialist Party, and a
candidate representing the Pensioners' Party, RFE/RL's
Bucharest bureau reported. MS

GOVERNMENT CRITICIZES FUNAR OVER MEMORIAL PLAQUE. The
government on 14 May said a recent initiative of the extreme
nationalist mayor of Cluj Gheorghe Funar was part and parcel
of the "chauvinist and anti-Semitic phenomena" harming
Romania's image abroad. Funar has had a memorial plaque hung
on a building in Cluj that claims the Hungarian national
poet Sandor Petofi was a Serb born as Alexander Petrovic and
later forced to "Magyarize" his name. MS

GAGAUZ-YERI PARLIAMENT PASSES REGIONAL 'CONSTITUTION.' The
Popular Assembly of the Gagauz-Yeri autonomous region on 14
May unanimously voted in favor of the region's basic law,
Infotag and BASA-press reported. The vote had been postponed
in March owing to objections from Chisinau that the law
infringes on the Moldovan Constitution. The assembly
approved the document after receiving favorable opinions
from the Council of Europe, the Moldovan Ministry of
Justice, and independent lawyers from the U.S., all of whom
agreed that the document does not contradict the
constitution and is in line with international provisions on
local autonomy. MS

TRANSDNIESTRIAN MEDIATORS URGE RESTORED BRIDGE TO BE OPENED
In a joint statement released on 14 May, the representatives
of the Russian and Ukrainian presidents and the head of the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's
permanent mission to Moldova said the recently restored
bridge at Dubasari, which spans the Dniester River, is a
"symbol of constructive cooperation and rapprochement of
citizens living on either side of the river." They also
expressed regret that its re-commissioning has been
postponed owing to "reasons of secondary importance." The
Tiraspol authorities are conditioning the re-opening of the
bridge on the signing of an agreement never to use the
bridge for military purposes. The reconstruction of the
bridge, destroyed during the 1992 military conflict, was
part of the agreement reached last May in Moscow. MS

TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER IN BULGARIA. Ismail Cem met with
Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and his Bulgarian counterpart,
Nadezhda Mihailova, in Sofia on 14 May to discuss economic
and financial cooperation and finding a solution to the
Kosova conflict, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Bulgarian
capital reported. Cem said NATO must play a more active role
in Kosova and help guarantee the security of the surrounding
countries. He also said that without accepting Bulgaria
among its members, NATO will remain an "unfinished circle."
Cem and Mihailova signed an agreement of cooperation between
their ministries. MS

ZHIVKOV IN INTENSIVE CARE. Former communist leader Todor
Zhivkov is in intensive care, after being taken ill with
heart and blood problems, AFP reported. BTA quoted a
spokesman for the hospital as saying the life of the 86-
year-old former president is not in danger, BTA reported. In
other news, the president of the Miners' Insurance company
was shot dead through the window of his car by an
unidentified gunman. The assassination may be linked to
conflicts within organized crime groups, according to a
spokesman for the government agency that supervises
insurance companies. MS

END NOTE

RE-DEVELOPING DEVELOPED SOCIALISM IN BELARUS

by Jan Maksymiuk

	"Multistructural economy"--such was the term used by
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to define Belarus's economic
course during his annual address to the bicameral National
Assembly on 17 April. The term supersedes (or may be used
alternately with) the concept of "market socialism" proposed
by Lukashenka in his annual address to the legislature in
1997. "We are building an economy of a multistructural type,
where private ownership will exist along with state
ownership," Lukashenka explained to lawmakers last month.
	According to Lukashenka, Belarus is about to witness
the "harmonious interaction of the industrial and
agricultural economic sectors, with the state preserving the
right of regulation." The state that regulates and controls
the transition to a market economy--in Lukashenka's opinion-
-is an "efficient" one. As for the strategic economic task
of the government, Lukashenka said the cabinet is seeking to
attain by 2001 the Soviet-era level of development in terms
of basic economic indicators.
	It is characteristic of both Lukashenka and Belarusian
official sources to illustrate the country's economic growth
by citing quantitative production indicators while bypassing
qualitative figures like real income, the purchasing power
of the average wage, newly created jobs, or investment. The
reason for this is obvious. Last year, Belarus claimed the
highest economic growth rate in Europe--some 10 percent of
GDP. But that achievement has in no way been reflected in
living standards.
	Calculated in terms of U.S. dollars at the official
exchange rate of the Belarusian National Bank, GDP last year
decreased by 1.9 percent, compared with 1996. An economic-
growth effect, if it indeed existed, was dispelled by
inflation and the devaluation of the national currency. If
the same means of calculation is applied to the nominal
average monthly wage, there was a 6.3 percent decrease in
1997, compared with the previous year. Moreover, the average
monthly pension fell by 13.4 percent and the average monthly
unemployment benefit by 4 percent.
	Nonetheless, Lukashenka's claims of industrial
production growth--in both 1997 and 1998--may be to some
extent valid. That growth continues to be artificially
stimulated by large National Bank credits to enterprises
that are subsequently ordered to sell their products at
prices below production costs. This accounts for the
official figure of a more than 40 percent increase last year
in trade turnover with Russia, Belarus's main economic
partner. It also accounts for unsold stock, most of it
uncompetitive on international markets, worth $500 million.
The most important effects of such monetary policies are the
devaluation of the Belarusian ruble (almost 200 percent in
1997), inflation (60 percent), decreased consumption, and
national pauperization.
	Nor does the situation in the agricultural sector look
rosy, not even according to official statistics.
Agricultural production last year fell by 5.5 percent,
primarily owing to a sharp decrease in the cultivation of
potato and flax, Belarus's most important crops. The state
subsidizes 80 percent of the sector's expenditures on
fertilizers and 50 percent of fuel and electricity costs.
Independent analysts assert that nearly 30 percent of the
Belarusian collective farms would go bankrupt immediately if
they were not subsidized from the budget. In his 17 April
address, Lukashenka pledged that the state would continue to
support the agroindustrial complex without discriminating
between profitable and loss-making farms.
	Lukashenka's address to the National Assembly--which
is fully subservient to the president--suggests a tightening
of the administration's grip on the economy. While calling
for a "multistructural economy," the Belarusian president
has not made any proposals or expressed any ideas signaling
that the authorities intend to steer toward economic
diversity. In fact, some recent economic developments
suggest just the opposite.
	The Oblast Executive Committees in Minsk and Mahilyou
have issued directives imposing restrictions on the sale of
foodstuffs. Individuals in Minsk Oblast, for example, are
not allowed to buy more than 0.4 kilograms of cheese and/or
2 kilograms of bread at any one given time. The old style of
managing the economy, such as prevailed under developed
socialism, gives rise to old ailments--shortages of food and
consumer products. Some Belarusian commentators have
expressed fears that this may be a step toward food
rationing .
	Restrictions have been and will be imposed on other
commodities as well. In March, the government prohibited
both state-owned and private enterprises from exporting flax
fibers. The practice of forcing producers to sell those
fibers at prices below production costs has led to a
significant decline in flax cultivation and a shortage of
flax for domestic processing.
	According to some reports, Lukashenka has already
drafted decrees on monopolizing foreign trade in a wide
range of commodities and on nationalizing--or, more
precisely, re-nationalizing--trade in medicines. If those
decrees are enacted, Lukashenka's revival of developed
socialism will be a fait accompli. One of the final goals of
such a policy is to eliminate consumers from economic
decision-making. The Belarusian president has already
chalked up several successes on this path, but will
Belarusian consumers cheer him on to proceed even further?

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