Czech Republic Offers Asylum To Belarusian Opposition Members

(RTTNews) - The Czech Republic has offered asylum to Belarusian Opposition members facing post-poll persecution and warned of sanctions on the authoritarian regime of that country.

Interior Minister Radek John made the offer after a delegation of Belarusian Opposition members visited the Czech Republic.

He told reporters in Prague that the government "is also thinking of significantly reducing the cost of visas for ordinary Belarusians and intends to join tougher sanctions against the leaders of Belarus who trample democratic norms and principles."

Irked by the authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko's poor human rights record, the United States and the European Union had imposed sanctions on the former Soviet Republic.

Lost presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin, Eva Neklyayeva -daughter of the arrested presidential contender Vladimir Neklyaev - and former chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Belarus Stanislav Shushkevich were among the Belarusian delegation that met Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg on Monday. They sent an appeal to the European Union member-states to take a unified stance toward the Belarusian leadership by "strengthening sanctions targeting the Lukashenko regime, which is "tramping democracy."

The Czech government expressed solidarity with the Belarusian Opposition and urged Minsk to release all political prisoners detained during last month's presidential elections.

Lukashenko, dubbed by the United States as "Europe's last dictator," was re-elected for a fourth term with a landslide majority in the December 19 elections.

Declaration of the results followed violent anti-government protests in the capital with thousands of Opposition supporters taking to the streets alleging electoral fraud behind Lukashenko's victory.

Police and KGB agents detained more than 600 protesters, including presidential contestants. Opposition candidates Vitaly Rymashevsky and Vladimir Neklyaev were injured when the police broke up a rally of their supporters. Neklyaev was arrested from his hospital bed.

KGB released Rymashevsky from pre-trial detention center on January 1 after the 35-year-old Opposition leader wrote a letter of explanation to the President pledging not to leave the country.

Belarusian authorities say that other ex-presidential candidates under custody are healthy, a claim refuted by their relatives.


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