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Milinkevich Announces Candidacy, Sees Belarus's Future In EU

Alyaksandar Milinkevich announces his candidacy in Minsk today.
Alyaksandar Milinkevich announces his candidacy in Minsk today.
MINSK -- The leader of Belarus's main opposition movement, Alyaksandr Milinkevich, said today after announcing his candidacy for president that he sees Belarus's future in the European Union, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Milinkevich, who heads the For Freedom movement, told RFE/RL that Belarus should also build mutually beneficial and strong neighborly relations with Russia.

"There is the opinion that Russia's neighbor should be her enemy or her vassal. I don't like either," he said. "I think that we are able to build good-neighborly, open, mutually advantageous relations. I am categorically against barking at Russia from behind a corner in Minsk. We can be dissatisfied with each other, but we need to behave decently."

Earlier, at a press conference in Minsk, Milinkevich announced he would challenge incumbent Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the next presidential election.

The exact date of the election in currently unknown. According to the constitution, the election should be held no later than February 2011.

"I made a decision to run for president in the approaching campaign. It is a very responsible decision for me. I have not hastened with it," he said. "Today I want to tell you frankly that I feel strong enough, know a lot, and have a will [to run]. And the most important, there are many people who support me and on whom I count."

Milinkevich's For Freedom movement is legally registered in Belarus but says it is regularly harassed by police and security officers.

Milinkevich won 6 percent of the 2006 presidential poll won by Lukashenka in an election that Western organizations said was neither free nor fair. Lukashenka has been president since 1994.

Milinkevich said the opposition will be on watch for any signs of voting irregularities.

"The authorities must count votes jointly with us. You count the votes -- we recognize your elections. You don't count them -- we take people to the streets for a peaceful protest, which will cause no chaos or bloody revolution," Milinkevich said. "If there is no democracy at polling stations, democracy is implemented in the streets."