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Friday, May 20, 2005


East increasingly critical of Belarus

From Radio Free Europe:

Lukashenka is used to criticism from the United States and European Union. What makes the new attacks different is that many of them now come from Eastern Europe and former republics of the Soviet Union. On 17 May, Slovakia added its voice to the swelling chorus of condemnation. The detention of yet another prominent opposition leader this week was, it said, further evidence of political motivated pressure on the opposition and media in Belarus.

Poland, which borders Belarus, has become one of Lukashenka's most outspoken critics. Yesterday it expelled a Belarusian diplomat in retaliation for the expulsion of the first secretary of the Polish Embassy in Minsk one day before. Earlier, at the summit of the Council of Europe, Polish President Aleksandr Kwasniewski said that "widespread violations of elementary principles of democracy and human rights in Belarus" were not acceptable. His foreign minister, Adam Rotfeld, made much the same point.

"In Belarus, the internal system has to change," Rotfeld said. "It is the last example of the sort of museum piece that the Council of Europe does not accept."

Lukashenka might be feeling the heat, but isolation is a condition to which he has grown accustomed. He makes no secret of his contempt for international as well as domestic opinion.

His opponents, both at home and abroad, will be encouraged by the collapse of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in the elections in Ukraine in late 2004.

But Lukashenka is a tougher proposition altogether. He enjoys a solid nucleus of support in Belarus and he has repeatedly demonstrated his readiness to use force when threatened.

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