Monday, March 27, 2006

Belarus Democratic Challenger Milinkevich Protests Information Blockade, Apathy, And Putin's 'Unfair' Backing Of Lukashenka's Regime

MINSK, Belarus -- "The week of unprecedented protests that followed disputed elections was just a start, and the opponents of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko need to step back and gather broader support, an opposition leader said today.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Alexander Milinkevich likened the protests to a storming that made "cracks in the fortress" of the hard-line government.

But he acknowledged they were not big enough to force change and said the opposition would now seek to get its message to more people in the former Soviet republic of 10 million.

"We have made holes and cracks in the fortress. But if we keep on knocking against it with our heads, especially with few forces, we may lose. That is why we are taking a step back and beginning a siege of this fortress. The siege will be an information attack," he said. ...

"There will be a second storming, but we won't wait five years for it," Milinkevich said.

He said the opposition will continue to seek a repeat vote in which Lukashenko would be barred from running and reiterated plans to hold the next large protest April 26 [the 20th anniversary of the Soviet Chernobyl disaster, in nearby Ukraine, which gravely affected health and child development in a large area of Southeast Belarus. The then-Soviet officials, of whom Lukashenka is a descendent, tried for a week to create an 'information blockade' to keep news of the nuclear disaster from citizens in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and Europe. See below for links.]

Milinkevich appealed to the European Union to press harder for the release of hundreds of people arrested in the protests, including another opposition leader, Alexander Kozulin. Courts are trying some of the detainees, with many being sentenced to jail terms of up to 15 days.

A spokesman for the prosecutor's office, Yegor Levai, said a criminal case against Kozulin had been opened, but he declined to say what charges he might face.

"I ask the EU to be tougher in demanding (Kozulin's) release, as well as the release of other political prisoners," Milinkevich said. He thanked Europe and the United States for their solidarity and their criticism of the election, and stressed the need for Western help in making Belarus more open and educating Belarusian students expelled for opposing the government.

"There are 10 million Europeans here ... and they must be helped," he said.

He also criticized Russia, which has expressed approval of the vote, calling its position "absolutely unfair." ...

Milinkevich said the opposition must fight fear and apathy in the face of an "information blockade" by the government, which has virtually complete control over the media." ...

"Our main goal remains: information, information, information," he said. "If people have information, the dictatorship will collapse like a house of cards."

Yuras Karmanau (Associated Press) "Belarus' oppostion leader talks about next steps" March 27, 2006 via Houston Chronicle


Chernobyl Link Index

Chornobyl Nuclear Disaster Zone Administration

Chernobyl Heart

On April 26, 1986, the worst nuclear accident in history occurred when a reactor exploded at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Sixteen years later, award-winning filmmaker Maryann De Leo took her camera to follow the devastating trail this radiation left behind in hospitals, orphanages, mental asylums and evacuated villages [of Belarus and Ukraine]. Winner of the Academy Award ® for Best Documentary Short.

With the streets and squares of Minsk blocked by tens of thousands of police, Alexander Milinkevich, on Saturday, leads tens of thousands of democratic protesters in a peaceful, democratic assembly in Minsk's beautiful Central Park. Elsewhere in Minsk, democratic opposition leader Kozulin is arrested by the Lukashenka regime.

Photo credits: Associated Press via With thanks.


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