President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has issued a decree prohibiting organizations and individuals from receiving and using foreign technical assistance for purposes deemed "unconstitutional," Belapan reported on 17 August, citing the presidential press service. In particular, the decree restricts providing such assistance for seminars, conferences, and public discussions. The organizers of such events are required to apply for official permission to the Cabinet of Ministers' Commission on International Technical Cooperation and the Economy Ministry. The measure drew criticism from the opposition. "It would be more logical to ban elections altogether," United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka commented on the decree. "Nongovernmental organizations and political parties will not be able to train observers and volunteers with assistance of trainers from Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine." However, Mikalay Astreyka, a coordinator of an election-observation network, said the decree will not affect so much election monitoring as internationally sponsored conferences. "Our election-monitoring system is based on volunteers who are not paid for their work," Astreyka said. "But the decree provides authorities with legislative tools against harmless seminars and conferences. In fact, it gives the authorities a free hand to take any action against civic society."
Based in London, we are an informal group dedicated to supporting democracy and human rights throughout
the former Soviet Union. Our aims are:
Informing the public about issues in this area that receive little coverage in the Western media.
Staging peaceful demonstrations and letter-writing campaigns in support of specific causes.
Supporting and publicising nonviolent pro-democracy groups throughout the region.
Encouraging European and American involvement.
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