Sunday, March 19, 2006

It's Official: Lukashenka Remains Dictator of Belarus

Excerpts from the Associated Press story -- Thousands of protesters thronged the main square of the Belarusian capital on Sunday in defiance of a government ban, refusing to recognize a presidential vote that gave a landslide — and largely expected — victory to the iron-fisted incumbent.

At the opposition demonstration in the capital's main square — the largest in years — protesters chanted "Long Live Belarus!" and the name of the main opposition candidate. Some waved a historic flag that President Alexander Lukashenko had replaced with a Soviet-style design, while others waved European Union flags...

Western countries have forged close ties with the opposition and made no secret of their contempt for the ruler of what Washington calls an outpost of tyranny in Europe. The United States has condemned the campaign as "seriously flawed and tainted."

Lukashenko dismissed international criticism.
"We in Belarus are conducting the election for ourselves," he said. "What is important is that elections take place in accordance with Belarusian legislation. As for sweeping accusations, I've been hearing them for 10 years. I've already gotten used to them."

The state has mounted a campaign of threats and allegations of violent, foreign-backed overthrow plots that its opponents say is aimed at frightening people and justifying the potential use of force against protesters. Security was tightened Sunday near the square and streets were closed to traffic.

On Thursday, the KGB chief accused the opposition of plotting to seize power with foreign help by detonating bombs and sowing chaos on election day, and warned that protesters could be charged with terrorism.

Since 1994, Lukashenko has silenced foes and maintained his grip on power through votes dismissed as illegitimate by the opposition and Western governments. Four opponents disappeared in 1999-2000.

Please pray for the oppressed people of Belarus...especially in these next few days where reprisals against peaceful demonstrators is expected.