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Belarus: Lukashenka Likely To Toughen Restrictions

  • Bogdan Turek

Warsaw, 10 December 1997 (RFE/RL) -- A Belarusian opposition activist today said that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is preparing decrees banning strikes.

Victor Ivashkevich told a news conference in Warsaw that Lukashenka has already approved a decree on terrorism that may be used for imposition of a state of emergency. Ivashkevich said the decree on terrorism carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison for any anti-state operation.

In a subsequent interview with RFE/RL Ivashkevich said that "Indications are that state of emergency may be announced in near future." He went on to say that Lukashenka may impose a state of emergency to suppress already limited democratic freedoms in the country. Ivashkevich said that strong opposition is developing to Lukashenka's practices and "The Charter 97" movement created in Minsk on November 10 is a success. "So far about 20,000 people signed the Charter and our plan is to have one million signatures next spring," he said.

Ivashkevich said the Charter 97 activists are collecting money to help the victims of the reprisals by the police. He said three opposition activists are currently in prison, six were sentenced to forced labor and more than 20 are awaiting trial.

Paul Zhuk, publisher of the recently closed Belarusian independent Svaboda newspaper, said at the same conference that he was "planning to open a new Noviny newspaper." Zhuk said he lost about $200,000 as a result of the closure and needs a similar amount of money to start a new publication.