Monday, March 26, 2007

In Shadow Of The EU's Iron-Curtained Disco Party; Belarus And Russian Protesters Clash With Police While Some Question Future Direction For New Europe

"Belarusian police have clashed with protesters in Minsk after about 10,000 people turned out for an opposition rally to call for the ousting of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

There are no reports of injuries in the clashes, which came as the opposition marked the anniversary of the short-lived 1918 Belarus republic crushed by Bolshevik troops.

Opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich told supporters at the rally: "We are the majority. We will win. The authorities will fall under the pressure of their lies."

Dozens of people were arrested during the demonstration today, not including some 34 opposition activists and leaders arrested in the days leading up to the protest.

Lukashenka, branded by the United States as Europe's last dictator, has begun to make overtures to the EU after relations with Russia collapsed this year in a trade row over oil and gas prices....

The demonstration marks the one year anniversary of when police used force to break up mass protests in Minsk against the elections in which Lukashenka won a third term. The election was deemed neither free nor fair by the international community.

Protests against that election a year ago lasted four days before a wave of arrests of opposition activists stopped the rallies. Western countries imposed sanctions on Lukashenka and other high-level Belarus officials in response.

Protesters in today's demonstration shouted "Long Live Belarus!" as they made their way toward the city center. Opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich led the demonstrators in chants of "We want freedom! and "Belarus will join the European Union!" Many carried blue EU or the white-red-white Belarusian flags.

Police, who at times beat back individuals in the crowd, redirected the march toward the Academy of Sciences, where Milinkevich addressed the crowd. Milinkevich, who along with his wife was among those police hit with their truncheons, was joined by members of the European Parliament.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the thoughts of the European Union are with the people in Belarus today.

Meanwhile, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in Berlin that the European Union is ready to form "a full partnership" with Belarus and boost financial aid to the republic if it adopts democratic reforms."

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty "Belarus: Protesters Clash With Police" March 25, 2007


"Russian riot police have detained dozens of activists at an opposition rally in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported.

Authorities had not given permission to hold the rally on a square in the city center as planned.

Despite the presence of hundreds of riot police, several hundred protesters gathered in the vicinity of the square.

Organizers told RFE/RL that police dragged dozens of activists into police buses and took them to police stations.

Dozens of activists were also reportedly detained on their way to the rally.

The rally was part of a protest movement known as the "March of the Discontented" that is being organized by liberal and leftist forces. Its leaders include former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, and independent lawmaker Vladimir Ryzhkov."

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty "Russian Police Detain Dozens At Anti-Kremlin Rally" March 24, 2007


Belarus and the Media

"Is voicing one's opinion in Belarus really against the rules?

When I refused to post stories about the March 25th protest in Minsk on the BHTimes, I received several letters by people telling me that I was not being a very responsible journalist. These people were almost universally NOT from Belarus, but instead from the EU or from the United States. My point for not running the article was that the protest was staged NOT for the benefit of the Republic of Belarus, but rather for furthering European interests and distorting the image of Belarus in the media by showing a false picture of chaos and governmental violence.

What is your opinion? Should Europe and the United States be allowed to exert control over the Republic of Belarus, or should Belarus have the right to freely choose its leaders and to govern itself?"

See also today's BEING HAD TIMES for more about the situation."

Adam Goodman, Pinsk, Belarus, Future European Union?

European Union and United States backed Belarus Reform and Opposition Leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich and his wife at yesterday's protest march in Minsk, Belarus; and Christian Orthodox Church Saint Theodore in Pinsk, Belarus; the home of American Belarus affairs commentator Adam Goodman.

Photo credit: (c) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Oleg Babinets, Minsk, Belarus. With thanks to both.


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