Valionis summons Belarusian officer over visa rejections

By TBT staff

VILNIUS - Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis is distressed over Belarus' decision to reject the visa applications of six Lithuanian parliamentarians, who had planned to observe Belarus' presidential elections. On March 16, the minister summoned a Belarusian diplomat to discuss the issue.

"The situation is scandalous - members of Parliament were refused visas. I have ordered to summon Belarusian charge d'affairs today and will speak to him in a certain manner," Valionis said. "We cannot put up with this, our reaction will be harsh."

On March 15, the Belarusian regime rejected visa applications of six MPs: opposition Conservatives Rasa Jukneviciene, Egidijus Vareikis, Emanuelis Zingeris, Audronius Azubalis and ruling Social Democrat Birute Vesaite and Labor Party member Skirmantas Pabedinskas.

Other Lithuanian parliamentarians, however, did receive visas to enter the country and intend to oversee Sunday's presidential elections in Minsk.

Ten members of Parliament's ruling and opposition groups are scheduled to leave for the Belarusian capital on Friday.

Some Lithuanian politicians discussed boycotting the elections, in a sign of solidarity with their uninvited colleagues. But ultimately, it was decided to proceed with the original plan and go to Minsk.

"Maybe that is what Belarus wanted - to insult us so that all observers from Seimas refused to come. Belarus wants as few observers as possible in the elections," Azubalis told the Baltic News Service.

A four-member Lithuanian delegation of the Central Electoral Committee, headed by committee chairman Zenonas Vaigauskas, left for the Belarusian capital this morning.

The presidential elections in Belarus, which have already been dismissed as unfair by the country's opposition and foreign democracies, are scheduled for March 19.

Hard-line President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been leading Belarus for the past 12 years, is running for his third consecutive term. Other candidates include united opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich, Social Democrat Alexander Kozulin, and MP Sergey Gaidukevich, who supports the administration.