Alyaksandr Lukashenka visited the Minsk Watch Plant on Friday morning instead of traveling to Kazakhstan to observe the final stage of military exercises of the Collective Rapid Response Force of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
The information about the visit to the plant, also known as Luch (Ray), was posted on the Belarusian leader’s web site in the morning. His press office was not available for comment.
On Thursday, the spokesman of the Kazakh foreign ministry said that Mr. Lukashenka had turned down an invitation to the maneuvers and Defense Minister Leanid Maltsaw would represent Belarus at the exercises, the first of the kind of the newly formed NATO-style rapid-reaction force.
All CSTO member states except Belarus and Uzbekistan signed the CSTO agreement on the establishment of the Collective Rapid Response Force at a summit held in Moscow on June 14, 2009. Mr. Lukashenka boycotted the meeting in protest against Russia’s decision to ban the import of nearly all dairy products from Belarus earlier that month.
Earlier this month, the CSTO Secretariat said that it expected Mr. Lukashenka to put his signature to the agreement on the sidelines of the maneuvers in Kazakhstan.
On October 6, Viktar Huminski, chairman of the national security committee in the Belarusian House of Representatives, said that Mr. Lukashenka had signed a presidential edict providing for Belarus’ accession to the agreement on the force.
Speaking earlier, Mr. Lukashenka said that the accord was just a framework agreement and there was "nothing bad in it."