Despite assurances from Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia and the United States can be “not only partners, but also friends,” and that “Russia has made its historical choice once and for all,” Moscow continues to sell arms to a communist state suspected of selling arms to Islamic terrorists.

Putin’s statements were carried by the Voice of Russia World Service, the official broadcasting service of the Russian government.

According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Alexander Lukashenko, the pro-Stalinist dictator of the former Soviet Republic of Belarus, has recently met with Andrei Belyaninov, head of the Russian arms export giant Rosoboroneksport, and Sergei Batehkin, executive secretary of the Defense Systems Interstate financial/industrial group.

The Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty article was based upon reports from monitoring Belarusian television and the Russian news service ITAR-TASS.

On Oct. 31, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty cited a report, based on U.S. and Israeli intelligence sources, claiming that Belarus is a major arms supplier to a wide variety of terrorist groups.

In the first half of 2001 alone, according to the report, Belarus concluded some $500 million worth of arms contracts with Arab, Palestinian, and Albanian Moslem extremist groups.

The report cited comments by arms-control expert Siemon Wezemaen, referring to Belarus as “one of the most secretive countries in its weapons deals,” and as “one of the most irresponsible countries you can think of.”

A Belarus Foreign Ministry official denied the allegations, stating, “It is common knowledge that secret arms-trade is impossible today.”

Observers note that, in fact, billions of dollars of arms flow throughout the world supporting various well-funded terrorist and revolutionary groups.

Questions have also been raised as to nuclear materials traveling to terrorist groups from Belarus.

Since Lukashenko – an unabashed admirer of the brutal Soviet dictator Josef Stalin – took office in 1994, Belarus has continued to devolve into a Soviet-era state, following policies consistently hostile to the West.

Belarus has close contacts with nations associated with terrorist activities – including Libya, Iran, Cuba and Syria.

Lukashenko was re-elected for a second term on Sept. 9, in a vote condemned by election observers as “neither free nor fair.” Moscow, however, defended the election procedures and ridiculed the “nitpicking foreign observers,” stating there was “really nothing they can do” about the outcome of the election.

Belarus and Russia are united in the Union of Russia and Belarus, which uses the Russian ruble as the common currency and employs a common defense doctrine.

Lukashenko is the head of the Union of Russia and Belarus.

While Moscow continues its close relations with the Lukashenko regime, there are indications that the newly elected communist government of Moldova may be admitted to the Union state, with possible further expansion including Ukraine and one or more of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

At home, the Putin government is restricting the functioning of an independent media. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports Moscow has decreed that it will exert control over all of Russia’s broadcasting and relay stations handling radio and television signals under a newly created Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Network.

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