News / Europe

    Belarus President Inaugurated in Isolation

    Belarus's President Alexander Lukashenko takes his oath of office during his inauguration ceremony in Minsk, 21 Jan 2011
    Belarus's President Alexander Lukashenko takes his oath of office during his inauguration ceremony in Minsk, 21 Jan 2011
    James Brooke

    Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko was inaugurated Friday for a fourth term. Sometimes called "the last dictator in Europe," Lukashenko now may see his rule stretch for 21 years.

    Speaking in Belarussian, Alexander Lukashenko was inaugurated as president of Belarus in a ceremony marked by isolation.

    The streets of Minsk were eerily empty when the president and his nine motorcycle convoy swept down Independence Avenue. One month earlier, 40,000 people filled that same avenue, protesting an election they said was rigged.

    For the inauguration, the ornate Palace of the Republic filled Friday with rows upon rows of hand-picked government officials. But envoys of the United States and the European Union boycotted the event, staying as far away as possible.

    The American Charge d'Affaires, Michael Scanlan, visited Grodno, a city on the Polish border, a five-and-a-half-hour-drive west.

    The European ambassadors drove three-and-a-half hours north to Vilnius, Lithuania. There, they met with students at European Humanities University, a university that calls itself a Belorussian university in exile.

    For Belarussians watching the inauguration on TV, their president started his new term with a tough speech, warning that "The limit of revolutions and upheavals in Belarus has been exhausted."

    Referring to democratic street revolutions that toppled authoritarian leaders in Ukraine and Georgia, he warned: "The virus of 'color' revolutions hits only weak countries."

    Turning to his neighbors to the west, he threatened: "To the ill-wishers of Belarus, I want to recall one popular adage: "Do not blow your neighbor's fire - it could accidentally spread onto your house as well"

    On Friday, Sovyetskaya Belorussia, the leading official newspaper, charged that foreign donors funneled $20 million to Andrei Sannikov, the presidential candidate who came in second in the Dec. 19 vote. On Thursday, President Lukashenko charged that the intelligence services of  Germany and Poland plotted to overthrow him through election campaigning and street protests.

    In response, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: "These baseless charges are intended to detract attention from the real injustice."

    Westerwelle says a wave of post-election arrests is prompting the U.S. and the EU to move toward sanctions.

    Dick Durbin is one of several American members of Congress who is criticizing the Lukashenko crackdown. Last week, Durbin, who is assistant Senate Majority leader, visited Minsk and met with families of jailed activists and candidates.

    Referring to the seven presidential candidates who were jailed, he said, "The fact that four of them still languish in prison today is an indication to me that Lukashenko just does not understand that sort of conduct is totally inconsistent with human rights and democratic values.  I know that European Union is about to take action.  I hope the U.S. will join in that action so the people of Belarus will understand that this action by their leader is unacceptable."

    The Obama administration is studying ways to tighten sanctions against the Belarus leadership. On Saturday, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia, the State Department’s lead official for Human Rights policy, is to visit Belarus for a four-day visit.

    Senator Durbin said that the Belarus president knows a solution to the sanctions threat.

    "Lukashenko can resolve this himself, immediately, by releasing these people from prison and dropping the charges," he said. "And I hope we don’t have to consider any further sanctions that would have an impact on the nation of Belarus."

    But President Lukashenko shows no sign of relenting. On Thursday he said on national television of his political rivals: "They should not be sitting in their isolation cells like blind mice, hoping that the Americans and the Europeans will soon come to their rescue."

    On Thursday, the European Parliament voted in favor of a wide range of sanctions, ranging from visa bans for the Belarus president and his top aides to denying Belarus funding through the International Monetary Fund.

    President Lukashenko, a man with big fists and a short temper, often compares politics to his favorite contact sport - ice hockey.

    In response, the European Parliament is threatening to hit him where it hurts. If Belarus does not release its political prisoners, the European Parliament says, the World Hockey Championships should not be held as planned in Belarus in 2014.

    In Moscow, foreign affairs analyst Fyodor Lukyanov said such moves are symbolic.

    "I don’t believe the Europeans will be ready to impose real economic sanctions on Belarus," Lukyanov said. "For example, to stop trading, to stop buying Belorussian oil product - because that will be bad for European economy, so they will not do it. And the rest is just about symbols."

    Lukyanov predicted that Moscow would take advantage of Belarus’ estrangement from the west to weave closer ties.

    Indeed, on Thursday, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin received his Belarussian counterpart and promised $4 billion in annual energy subsidies and the construction of a $6 billion nuclear power plant.

    First planned in the early 1980s, the nuclear project was dropped after the Soviet-made nuclear plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine caught fire in April 1986.

    Belarussians say their nation received 70 percent of the nuclear fallout from Chernobyl. As a result, nuclear power has long been a taboo topic in Belarus. But, now, with President Lukashenko embarking on a new five year term, it looks like Belarus will finally get its own Russian-designed nuclear power plant.

    You May Like

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border From Mexico

    In remote areas of the Sonoran Desert, which straddles the US-Mexico, thousands of migrants face arid desolation

    Video Recycling is Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    It's an ancient craft that stretches back millennia - but despite Lebanon’s trash crisis providing a lifeline, remaining glass blowers face an uncertain future

    Meet the Alleged Killer of Cambodia’s Kem Ley

    What little is known about former soldier, troublesome Buddhist monk and indebted gambler, raises more questions than answers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora