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Belarus Opposition Leader: West Can Help Democracy


Alexander Milinkevich, who led protest demonstrations in Belarus against electoral fraud, says the West could help democratic forces fighting for freedom in his country. Marlene Smith has more for VOA from Vienna, where the opposition leader had talks with EU politicians.

Alexander Milinkevich only won six percent of the vote in last month's presidential election, but his fame has spread well beyond the borders of Belarus.

The politician visited Vienna and spoke to journalists at the invitation of the Austrian Christian Democratic Party, led by Prime Minister Wolfgang Schüssel.

Milinkevich said without Russian support, the government of President Aleksandr Lukashenko would collapse, but that the west could also play a role in helping democracy.

He says the regime in Minsk is strong because it allows no free information and has a monopoly on the media. Milinkevich says the press is government controlled and only a few radio broadcasts such as Radio Free Europe can be received from outside.

He says Belarus state television offers a diet of anti-U.S. propaganda and longwinded speeches by the president visiting tractor factories.

Milinkevich continued, many young people and students are now suffering because they took part in demonstrations against the government. He said he wants the European Union to help with facilitating visas and grants so that such students could continue their education outside Belarus.

On election night Milinkevich spoke to thousands of supporters in Minsk who defied special units of the state police to protest, what they called, the manipulation of the presidential election. He stayed in makeshift tents on the main city square with demonstrators before the police moved in and made hundreds of arrests.

Official results gave the incumbent President Lukashenko 83 percent of the vote with a turnout of more than 90 percent. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said the vote was marred by serious violations, intimidation, and electoral fraud.

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