Belarus leader warns against Kyrgyz-type turmoil

MINSK (Reuters) - Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko warned citizens Tuesday to be on guard against Kyrgyz-style turmoil, suggesting outside forces were bent on pushing him from power as a 2011 presidential election approaches.

"We have a crucial campaign ahead of us, an arduous campaign," local news agencies quoted Lukashenko as telling villagers on a visit to eastern Belarus. He said that if he sought another term, as is expected, "it will get even harder."

"You must not relax, in order not to permit what is happening in some republics, what recently happened in Kyrgyzstan," he said. "This is what we don't need. If somebody is applauding and rejoicing, it's not the Kyrgyz people."

Lukashenko was referring to an April 7 uprising that ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and killed at least 85 people in the Central Asian nation.

The authoritarian leader's statement may be seen as a tough warning to Belarus's vocal but fragmented opposition, which staged street protests after Lukashenko' re-election in a 2006 vote judged to be neither free nor fair by the West.

The next presidential election is due in February 2011. Lukashenko, in power in the former Soviet republic since 1994, oversaw constitutional amendments in 2005 that removed limits on the number of terms he can serve.


The 55-year-old leader, who once pledged to build a "union state" with giant neighbor Russia but has since fallen out with Moscow, has rapped its prompt recognition of the interim government that claimed power in Kyrgyzstan after the revolt.

In an apparent effort to annoy Russia, Lukashenko allowed Bakiyev to come to Belarus last week and vent his criticism of Moscow, which he says may have played a role in his overthrow.

Lukashenko, who calls Russia's policy toward Kyrgyzstan "shortsighted," threatened last weekend to snub a May summit of the Moscow-dominated CSTO security pact of ex-Soviet states unless its agenda included Kyrgyzstan's "bloody coup d'etat."

The outspoken leader, whose ties with former ally Russia have soured after a series of trade wars and rows over prices for Russian oil and gas, hinted that Moscow, like his critics in the West, may be keen to see him go.

"You see, someone -- both in the East and the West -- does not like the current president. Naturally, they are itching to sneak in here," Lukashenko told rural residents. "I don't worry about this much, I'm just telling you: you should not relax."

(Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; editing by Mark Trevelyan)


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