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Analysis: Diplomacy And Debauchery In Belarusian-Czech Relations

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry on 21 January expelled Czech diplomat Pavel Krivohlavy, accusing him of depraving minors and inciting them to "antisocial behavior," Belarusian Television reported. "To put it plainly, Czech diplomat Pavel Krivohlavy made juvenile boys drunk in order to subsequently try dragging them into bed," Belarusian Television alleged. The network's main news program "Panarama" on 21 January broadcast secretly recorded footage showing Krivohlavy purportedly drinking alcohol with and kissing young men in what appeared to be cafe or a restaurant.

In response to Krivohlavy's expulsion, the Czech Foreign Ministry the same day expelled an unidentified Belarusian diplomat from Prague. Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Savinykh commented on Prague's diplomatic retaliation by saying that the Czech authorities misunderstand the principle of reciprocity. "Pavel Krivohlavy had to leave Belarus in connection with a properly documented and evidenced violation of law punishable under two articles of the Criminal Code of Belarus," Savinykh said. According to Savinykh, as quoted by Czech Television and Nova Television, Krivohlavy had sexual contacts with persons under the age of 16 in Belarus.

Belarusian Television's comment on the diplomatic scandal linked Krivohlavy's behavior in Minsk with the activities of the Czech Foreign Ministry's Department for the Struggle Against Undemocratic and Totalitarian Regimes, which supports the Belarusian democratic opposition, and the Prague-based committee For a Free Belarus, which includes former Czech President Vaclav Havel among other Czech political figures. "You'll certainly agree that our neighbors' understanding of democracy is peculiar: intoxication of youths, debauchery, and pornography," Belarusian Television commented on "Panarama" on 21 January. "Do they have the moral right -- they who are spreading the worst, vile predilections in our country -- to teach us how to live?"

According to Belarusian Television, to Western sponsors of democracy in Belarus -- including Czech diplomats -- freedom and permissiveness are one and the same. "After the [2004 parliamentary] election and referendum, the opposition, coordinated from abroad, tried to organize mass disturbances in the streets," Belarusian Television commented. "They called on juveniles to take [to the streets], promising them free beer and strong alcoholic beverages."

The network stressed the particular role of Czech politicians and diplomats in their contacts with the Belarusian opposition. Specifically, Belarusian Television said that Czech parliamentary deputy Svatopluk Karasek read a message signed by Havel to a "raging crowd," presumably in Minsk. The network also recalled that former Czech Ambassador to Belarus Ales Fojtik held numerous meetings and consultations with Belarusian opposition leaders at both at their party headquarters and the embassy.
Lukashenka has surely not forgotten that one of the greatest international snubs in his 10-year presidential career came at the hands of the Czech Republic.

"Why has the Czech diplomatic mission [in Minsk] engaged in such an activity?" Belarusian Television asked, immediately answering: "The point is that Washington and Brussels want to do the dirty work with the hands of their satellites in Eastern Europe, in order to hide their involvement in destabilizing the situation in Belarus." And the network had one more jab for the Czech Republic: "By performing the role of a disseminator of democratic ideas [and] searching out petty incidents of human rights violations, the Czech leadership is trying to force alien principles and standards of social and political life upon Belarusian society."

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has had good reasons to turn the current diplomatic row between Minsk and Prague into a wider opportunity for lashing Prague before his compatriots. He has surely not forgotten that one of the greatest international snubs in his 10-year presidential career came when the Czech Republic denied him a visa for a NATO summit in Prague on 21-22 November 2002. Then-Czech President Havel uttered a memorable phrase on the occasion, saying that the visa denial was not intended to offend Belarus but was "an expression of aversion toward the authoritarian manner of rule represented by Alyaksandr Lukashenka." Since that time, the Czech Embassy in Minsk and the Belarusian Embassy in Prague have been headed by charges d'affaires, not full-fledged ambassadors.

The 21 January Belarusian Television feature on the Czech authorities' allegedly sinister exploits in Belarus appears to be part of a media campaign "to reveal the true face of the West to Belarusians," as requested by Lukashenka shortly prior to the 17 October 2004 referendum that cleared the path for him to serve as president for life. "[Show to our people] how they [the West] try to make prostitutes out of our girls, what they do here, how they feed our citizens with narcotics, how they spread homosexuality in Belarus," Lukashenka said during a televised meeting of the Security Council on 28 September. "Begin with Germany, the wisest and the best."

And indeed, before reporting on the current scandal involving the Czech diplomat, Belarusian Television aired a program about a German diplomat who, according to "Panarama," "amused himself with cocaine and drew Belarusian youths into using narcotics." The network also mentioned two U.S. diplomats, one of whom was reportedly involved in "a destructive sect" while another spent his free time in the "company of juvenile prostitutes."

Belarusian Television saved its best metaphor for the end of the 21 January "Panorama" report when it compared modern-day Belarus, which has been independent for just 14 years, to an adolescent the West is attempting to corrupt by plying it with such "democratic values" as drinking, sexual permissiveness, and pornography. The network's metaphor apparently tried to match and resonate with comments made by President Lukashenka in a 7 September speech in which he announced a referendum on prolonging his rule. "All these years [of my presidency] I have been carrying cautiously and with trepidation this bright crystalline vessel named Belarus in my hands before me," Lukashenka said in September. "I am carrying it, fearing to let it fall, because it is so fragile and vulnerable. You will surely agree with me that we would not like this purity and beauty created by us to fall into the hands of an irresponsible, casual politician."

Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said on 24 January that the reason given by Minsk for expelling Krivohlavy is not valid. Krivohlavy also denied any wrongdoing. "I have done nothing like this and I have never been notified of any accusation. My conscience is absolutely clean," CTK quoted Krivohlavy as saying. "Propaganda and the [Belarusian] KGB are capable of doing anything." Krivohlavy admitted that the secretly taped footage showing him with people in a restaurant was genuine, but added that none of his companions was so young as to justify any question of him breaking any laws.