Lukashenko re-election denounced

By: CBW, 27. 03. 2006

Regional leaders and ministers have expressed concern over the re-election of Aleksandr Lukashenko, who officially won 82.6 percent of the vote for president of Belarus.

According to Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers, the elections didn't meet its criteria and international standards for free and fair elections.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus won't congratulate Lukashenko on his re-election, Presidential Office spokesman Petr Hajek said March 21. According to Klaus, the outcome of the March 19 presidential elections confirmed his fears for democracy in Belarus. Klaus expressed his concern over fundamental civic rights and freedoms and the persecution of the Belarusian opposition in a letter to Lukashenko last year, but hasn't yet received an answer from him, Hajek said.

Calls for sanctions

On March 20, the European Union denounced the presidential elections in Belarus. According to the EU foreign ministers, the elections weren't fair and were marked by systematic intimidation of opposition politicians and activists.

Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic were among those pushing hard for tough EU action, according to a report by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Lithuania said the EU should contest the legitimacy of the election result, and Slovakia wants an EU statement denying Lukashenko recognition as the winner of the poll. Poland is asking for sweeping visa bans and the freezing of assets of officials responsible for violations, as well as targeted economic sanctions. Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda invited opposition leader Aleksandr Milinkevich, who officially earned only 6 percent of the vote, to attend a European People's Party summit, but Milinkevich declined, stating that he didn't want to leave Belarus.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeyer was more cautious, arguing that a hasty and ill-considered reaction could limit the EU's options for dealing with Belarus.

Czech reporter beaten

Svoboda also plans to protest to Belarusian authorities in connection with an incident in which a reporter for Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes was beaten up and robbed of his laptop and satellite phone at a March 19 opposition demonstration in Minsk. "Given the circumstances in which [reporter] Jan Rybar was attacked, I consider the incident very serious. I will wait for a report from [Czech Ambassador to Belarus] Vladimir Ruml, but I can already say that we will express our protest to Belarus," Svoboda told Mlada fronta Dnes.

Rybar told Czech news agency CTK that he believed that he was beaten up by Belarusian secret police agents, but had no direct proof for his allegation.

Compiled by Raymond Johnston from CTK, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty and other wires.