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Belarus: Opposition Leader Stands Up Against President's Regime

Warsaw, 25 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - Belarus Popular Front leader Zyanon Paznyak, who directs his country's largest opposition movement from abroad, spoke to RFE/RL's Warsaw bureau by telephone from Kyiv yesterday.

Paznyak said opposition demonstrators plan to use tomorrow's eleventh anniversary commemorations of the Chornobyl nuclear accident, to voice their protest against the authoritarian regime of President Alyaksandr Luakshenka. Paznyak said he expects the demonstration to match last year's rally, when 50,000 people marched through downtown Minsk. That rally ended in violent clashes with police and led to the eventual banning of the Popular Front, and the hounding of Paznyak into virtual exile.

Paznyak was out of the country last year when a warrant was issued for his arrest. Last Summer, he was granted political asylum in the U.S.

But Paznyak told RFE/RL he is pleased to see that "more and more young people" are becoming politically active in the anti-Lukashenka movement. He said opposition forces were "growing bigger every day," and he called on the West to throw its support behind him and isolate President Lukashenka. Paznyak said he would like the U.S., in particular, to stop providing Moscow with fresh credits. Referring to moves by the Russian and Belarusian governments to integrate their two countries, Paznyak said, "It is, after all, the Kremlin which is trying to swallow Belarus."

Paznyak also noted that the European Union (EU) and European Parliament in Strasbourg did not recognize the exisiting union agreement between Russia and Belarus.

The Popular Front leader said that in spite of President Lukashenka's efforts, he remains convinced that "Belarus will remain an independent, democratic and sovereign country."