U.S., Moscow criticize Belarus for opposition crackdown
March 26, 1997
Web posted at: 10:45 a.m. EST (1545 GMT)
MINSK, Belarus (CNN) -- The Belarusian government has come
under increasing fire from Washington and Moscow, following a
weekend crackdown that has left more than 100 opposition
supporters in police custody.
The United States on Tuesday recalled its ambassador from
that former Soviet republic for consultations on deteriorating relations between
the two countries and said it would announce further steps to
protest the expulsion from Belarus of a U.S. diplomat.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin -- rarely critical of its neighbor --
ordered Belarus to loosen its restrictions on Russian
At least 40 people have received fines or jail sentences for
participation in Sunday's opposition protest, said Boris
Gyunter, a spokesman for the opposition Belarusian Popular
Front. At least 100 others were in police custody, he said. Officials have said 75 people were arrested.
Belarus expelled U.S. embassy first secretary Serzh Alexandrov, of Belarussian origin, for allegedly helping to organize the rally.
In response, the United States, which denied the charges, said Ambassador Kenneth Yalowitz would arrive in
Washington on Thursday and report directly to Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright.
Belarus authorities also began barring Russian journalists
from entering the main television center in Minsk on Sunday
and extended the restriction to other international
broadcasters Monday. Moscow sharply criticized the move.
"We have the right to expect that the principles of freedom
of information will be restored in full and Russian
journalists will receive an opportunity to freely perform
their duties," Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky told a
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a former Soviet
farm director, has sought to loosely reunite his country's 10 million citizens with Russia, which has about 148 million residents.
Lukashenko and Russian President Boris Yeltsin agreed last
April to form a commonwealth of two states, and a new deal is
expected to be signed at a meeting between the two leaders
next week marking the anniversary. The agreement is expected
to move the two nations toward closer economic union, but it
is unclear how far it will go toward a full merger.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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