Thursday, May 5, 2005. Issue 3160. Page 3.

Yushchenko Assails Minsk on Jailings

The Associated Press

Vladimir Filonov / MT

Moscow police detaining demonstrators at an anti-Minsk rally outside the Belarussian Embassy on Wednesday.

KIEV - Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko accused Belarus of employing a double standard Wednesday after a court released 14 Russian pro-democracy activists who were detained during an opposition rally in Minsk but refused to let five Ukrainians go.

Pro-democracy activists and their supporters, meanwhile, rallied outside the Belarussian embassies in Moscow and Kiev on Wednesday to protest the continued detention of the five National Alliance youth movement activists.

The five were among more than three dozen Belarussians, Ukrainians and Russians arrested April 26 by Minsk riot police during an opposition-organized rally against President Alexander Lukashenko.

Yushchenko told reporters that he would raise the issue of the detained Ukrainians at a summit of former Soviet republics in Moscow on Sunday.

"Of course, I will propose that we come to a joint conclusion about this annoying incident and not let it cast shadows and change our good-neighborly relations into any other type of relations," Yushchenko said.

The Foreign Ministry said diplomats were in contact with lawyers and international human rights groups to consider appealing to Belarus' Supreme Court.

In Moscow, police broke up a rally by demonstrators in front of the Belarussian Embassy, dragging protesters into a bus as they shouted "No to Fascism!" The activists earlier tried to hand over a prison robe and a bowl of soup - symbolizing what they said were harsh conditions in Belarussian jails.

"This is an act of solidarity with those who are still in jail," said Irina Vorobyeva, an activist of the Young Yabloko group and one of the protesters freed after being detained in Minsk. "They were imprisoned simply for exercising their civil rights."

In Kiev, 40 National Alliance members protested at the Belarussian Embassy, beating drums and sounding sirens to mark every hour that their comrades had spent in the Belarussian jail. The group also sent up a small tent camp.

A Minsk court freed all the arrested Russians on Saturday. Despite repeated appeals by Ukraine, the court on Tuesday declined to free the Ukrainians, who were sentenced to up to 15 days in jail.

Belarus' beleaguered opposition - crushed by Lukashenko's 10-year rule - has been emboldened by Orange Revolution in Ukraine, where Yushchenko came to power after mass protests late last year.