Lukashenka Says 'Minsk More Comfortable Than Paris'

September 11, 2006 -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said that Minsk is ahead of London, Madrid, and Paris, and a little behind Berlin in terms of residents' satisfaction with living conditions.

Lukashenka was speaking on September 8 at a meeting of the CIS International Association of Capitals and Large Cities, which took place in the Belarusian capital.

Belapan reported that Lukashenka said that 86.2 percent of Minsk residents are satisfied with their standard of living. The Belarusian president also revealed that Minsk accounts for 20 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and some 30 percent of Belarusian exports.

Belarus is regularly criticized internationally for its democratic record.

The U.S. nongovernmental organization Freedom House recently ranked Belarus among the worst nations in terms of democracy.

Freedom House says the Lukashenka's government grew increasingly dictatorial during 2005, with the authorities clamping down on free media and public expression ahead of Lukashenka's reelection in 2006.