Lukashenko shuns CIS summit

Belarus’s long-standing leader Alexander Lukashenko was conspicuous by his absence at a summit of the leaders of former Soviet republics in Tajikistan on Saturday.

Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich represented the country instead.

Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov said Lukashenko was too busy dealing with the economic woes in the country, where the currency has been devalued.

“He is not here because he is wrestling with the pressing currency regulation issues in Belarus,” Martynov said.

On Tuesday, Lukashenko announced a liberalization of the Belarusian ruble to stave off the looming financial crisis. He also said that he would liberalize the national currency’s exchange rate and stop artificially propping it up beginning in mid-September.

Another headache for the Belarusian president is the gas price charged by Russia and its energy giant Gazprom. The two sides are negotiating a new deal, which has stumbled over disagreements on the gas price.

Gazprom has also tied discount for the Russian gas with a long-desired acquisition of Belarus’s pipeline network Beltransgaz, where it already holds 50 percent.

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