Will Putin become president of union state?

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The presidents are yet to decide whether to introduce presidency in the union state. This is one of the issue to be discussed by the Belarus and Russian presidents during the upcoming visit by Vladimir Putin in Minsk. The European Radio for Belarus turns to commentators to clarify the situation that grabbed media attention today.

Ivan Makushok, the Union State’s Permanent Committee spokesman and an aide to Pavel Borodin, has no confirmed information on this issue. He also noted that referendum should take place prior to the signing of the Constitutional Act.

“We don’t have this information. Personally, I am doubtful that this information could have been leaked from the Lukashenka’s administration ahead of this visit which is so important for our union relations. It will be for the first time for Putin to spend two days in Belarus. The presidents will discuss the Constitutional Act. But before it is signed, the peoples of the union state should first vote for or against the unification,” Makushok said.

According to Senator Mikalai Charhinets, the Constitutional Act is 90 percent ready. Therefore, it cannot be signed. It could only be discussed.

“I am very doubtful that this act will be signed during the visit. I am saying this as a member of the working group which drafts the Constitutional Act. I know that it is 90-percent ready. There are several issues that need to be resolved by the both presidents. The commission left to the presidents to decide whether the post of presidency should be envisaged in the Constitutional Act. There are two options: to leave everything as it is (the Supreme State Council) or to introduce the posts of the president and vice president. In this regard, we need to know the views of the presidents. Perhaps, they will discuss these issues during the meeting. I know that they are faced with more significant issues that require attention and that need to be signed. This includes railroad tariffs, conditions for medication supplies, and an agreement on transport relations”, Charhinets said.

Commenting on the report by Ekho Moskvy about Putin’s visit to Belarus, Piotr Martsev, the editor-in-chief of the Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta, noted that “the visit looks more like a part of the seasonal gas price bargaining rather than the creation of the union state”.

Yaraslau Ramanchuk, director of the Mizes Center think tank, is doubtful that Lukashenka will agree to sign the union deal.

“The sides are playing their own games. This proves that there is definitely a crisis of confidence between the two nations. It means that this union state has turned into a ring for political boxing, not a field for fruitful cooperation.

This information could have been deliberately leaked both by the Belarusian side and the Russian security services in order to test the reaction from Belarus. Everyone has its own reasons to do such a thing ahead of the summit,” Ramanchuk said.

Belarus President’s spokesman Pavel Lyohki advised to seek comments from the Russian media which initially started the frenzy.

Several days ago, in his comments with the European Radio for Belarus on Putin’s abrupt decision to stay in Minsk for two days, Belarusian political analyst Roman Yakovlevsky warned that the Constitutional Act could be possibly signed. He also warned that it could be a threat to the sovereignty of Belarus. Towards the evening, more politicians, commentators and economists shared their views about this situation, with some even describing it as a provocation of the Belarusian side. But Piotr Martsev calls it simply a political PR move.

“I think that this surprise campaign was designed to coincide with the negotiations with Gazprom over the gas costs in order to get a reduced price. If this campaign fails, they can always put the blame on the Russians who do not want to create a union state or enter into negotiations. The Russian president would be blamed in this case. This is a pure PR technique”.