Senate to support Lukashenko's opponents

PRAGUE, March 1 (CTK) - The Senate will keep supporting the opponents of the authoritarian regime of Belarussian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, even if a change in the local situation does not occur soon, Senate chairman Premysl Sobotka told CTK today.

Sobotka met Belarussian human rights activist Ales Bialacki, who will accept the prize Homo homini in Prague in the evening.

The prize is awarded by the group People in Need to the personalities who have largely contributed to the human rights, democracy and non-violent solution to political conflicts in the world.

Sobotka said it was a good thing that the Belarussian opposition had united itself before the forthcoming presidential elections in Belarus.

Sobotka said that Bialacki "believes that the opposition will remain united and will continue with a joint course even after the elections which Lukashenko seems to dominate this time again."

Sobotka said that the Ukrainian Orange Revolution did not seem to repeat in Belarus soon. Bialacki mentioned the existence of Russian military bases in Belarus and the fears of intervention.

The Senate will support the Belarussian opposition as Czech dissidents had been backed by Western Europe during the Communist era, Sobotka said.

Senators will try and visit Belarus again, Sobotka said.

Sobotka said that this year, senators Karel Schwarzenberg (the Freedom Union-DEU) and Jaromir Stetina (the Greens) tried to visit Belarus in connection with the presidential elections, but although they held diplomatic passports, they did not receive the visa.

In the past, former senators Jan Ruml and Michael Zantovsky had visited Belarussian dissidents.

Last year, the Czech Foreign Ministry donated roughly four million crowns on the support to democracy in Belarus.

The money was mostly spent on study stays of Belarussian activists in the Czech Republic, support to Belarussian independent press and radio broadcasts and brochures dealing with the state of human rights in Belarus.