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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lukashenko Opposes Veshnyakov

Belarus has unexpectedly vetoed Russia's candidate for the post of executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States, apparently because he criticized Belarussian elections.

At an informal CIS summit last weekend, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko told Presidents Vladimir Putin and Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, which holds the rotating CIS presidency, that he would not endorse former Central Elections Commission chief Alexander Veshnyakov for the post, Kommersant and Vedomosti reported Wednesday.

The Belarussian government declined to comment on the matter Wednesday, Interfax reported. But a source in Minsk told Interfax that Veshnyakov had made biased remarks about Belarus and its electoral system while he headed the Central Election Commission.

In December 2002, Veshnyakov criticized Minsk's refusal to sign a CIS convention on election standards.

But Nikolai Cherginets, chairman of the international affairs committee in Belarus' upper house of the parliament, said the reasons for Lukashenko's objection were unclear, telling Vedomosti that Veshnyakov knew nothing about Russian-Belarussian relations.

Veshnyakov, who lost his job as elections chief in March, had been tipped to replace Vladimir Rushailo, whose term as CIS secretary runs out on Thursday.

Veshnyakov's departure from the elections commission has been linked to his criticism of Kremlin-backed electoral laws and political tactics, but he has denied the link.

Lukashenko's surprising move comes as relations between Russia and its erstwhile close ally Belarus are increasingly strained. Last winter, Moscow temporarily shut down an oil pipeline, forcing Minsk to pay higher energy prices.

The CIS is a grouping of all the former Soviet republics except the Baltic states. Among other things, it monitors elections on former Soviet soil.