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MINSK -- Activists in Belarus say they are alarmed by new bills that could cripple opposition to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's rule.

The proposed legislation, published on the state website pravo.by, would make it a criminal offense to give or receive financial support for "political parties," "rallies," "circulating propaganda materials" and other forms of political work.

The felony would be punishable by up to two years in prison.

Under the legislation, organizations with foreign bank accounts will have to hand over their assets to the state.

The bill also proposes to amend existing legislation on espionage, and introduces a new charge targeting foreign nationals.

The legislation also increases the powers of the Belarusian KGB.

Rights defender Valentin Stefanovich said that the new laws would remove the last loopholes left for nongovernmental organizations.

with agency reports
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