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Belarus: Food Distribution Officials Fired

Prague, 9 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Five top officials in Belarus' state food distribution and processing complex have been fired. Our Minsk correspondent reports the five were fired yesterday on orders of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

A state committee had recommended the firings two weeks ago, but reports said Lukashenka had delayed a decision because of the strong support the officials had given him in the November referendum that extended his term and enhanced his powers.

The five officials were blamed for food shortages in the stores. One of the fired officials blamed a shortage of dairy products on state-controlled prices. With open borders between Belarus and Russia, goods are shipped to Russia where they are sold for higher prices, he said.

In a related development today, some 30 opposition figures demonstrated at the parliament building against food shortages.

Yesterday, opposition leaders meeting in Minsk said they would try to inform the public of what they called the true state of the economy. They presented statistics that suggest the minimum monthly wage in Belarus fell in 1996 from the equivalent of $7 to $4. And, they assert, the prices for basic foods have doubled since the November referendum.