The presidency of the European Union, which is now with Portugal, has released a statement condemning the sentencing of two outspoken members of the Belarusian opposition - Nikolai Statkevich and Valery Schukin. The document was published on 28 June in Lisbon, Brussels and Minsk.
"These verdicts, announced after the sentencing of former Premier Mikhail Chigir and administrative persecution, which prevented the Belarusian Social-Democratic Party from holding its annual session under sound conditions, one more time testify to the existence of barriers, limiting the activities of the opposition figures and parties in Belarus," reads the document.
The European Union calls upon the Belarusian authorities to insistently take all possible measures to set up a climate of confidence, which is the only way free and fair parliamentary elections can be held.
Trouble on the farm
Machine operators from the Dubrova collective farm (Gomel region) launched a spontaneous strike on 26 June. Thirty people were reported by the Vesna human rights centre to have joined the strike. The people showed up at work in the morning but refused to do their jobs.
They demanded that they be paid their wages, which they had last received in February this year. The workers wanted to at least get their February salaries, not even hoping that they would get all their money right away. Most of the local residents supported the boycott of the machine operators.
By noon, the money was found and the workers were paid approximately USD 15 to 20 for February. In the meantime, when hearing that the people had returned to work, the workers' bosses swore to find a way to pay them their March wages as well. The machine operators' indignation was to some degree caused by the fact that Nikolaevka villagers had already received their February wages, whereas they hadn't.
Decline in Belarusian language
The Association of Belarusian Schools (ABS) on 27 June forwarded a letter to the Minister of Education Vasily Strazhev, in which they expressed their alarm over the worsening perspectives of Belarusian-language education, reports BelaPAN.
The letter states that while the national language is dying out, the state fails to adopt any policy to bring back the national renaissance, whereas officials are strongly opposed to the Belarusian language.
The authors of the document declare that they are aware of cases when school administrations intentionally dissolved groups of children conducting their studies in Belarusian. Apart from that, the authors claim, schoolchildren from such groups are often discriminated against at times of school contests and other competitions.
As deemed by the ABS, all this is the result of officials' intolerance and indifference toward the national language, its future and the country itself.
The fulfillment of the parameters of the state monetary and credit policies in the first half of this year created pre-conditions for establishing the single exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble in the third quarter of the year 2000.
This problem was discussed at the session of the National Bank's leadership, held on 26 June and chaired by Petr Prokopovich. BelaPAN reports that permanent control over the dynamics of key factors allowed them to maintain the level specified by the "major directions of the monetary-credit policy and governmental decisions."
Special attention has been paid to ensuring the positive level of bank rates, which contributed to the normalization of the financial sphere. A number of measures have been taken to back up the stable performance of the Belarusian ruble in the currency markets, along with eliminating the disparities between different ruble rates.
End of dictators
"By the year 2025 there should remain no more dictatorships on the face of the Earth," said Anatoly Lebedko, leader of the United Civic Party (UCP) on 28 June in Minsk regarding the results of the recent high-level meetings in Warsaw of the united opposition delegation from Belarus.
Delegates Ludmila Gryaznova, Anatoly Lebedko, Vintsuk Vyachorka, Dmitry Bondarenko and Nina Stuzhinskaya returned from the Warsaw conference "World Forum on Democracy" during which they managed to hold talks with the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, and prominent businessman George Soros.
As pinpointed by UCP Chairman Lebedko, the meeting with Mrs Albright and her approval of the policies of the democratic forces in Belarus are an important event in the history of contemporary Belarus. According to Mr Lebedko, the democratic circles of Belarus now rest on two feet beyond the ocean - the feet symbolized by the US Congress and the Secretary of State.
Belarusian Popular Front Chairman Vintsuk Vyachorka stressed that for such an objective not to be shaky it needs a third leg, which is the support of European structures. The sides spoke about the political situation in Belarus and non-recognition by the US and Europe of the autumn parliamentary elections.
Mrs Albright noted that in comparison with their Serbian colleagues, Belarus' opposition represents a united force, whereas the Serbs in opposition are still split into minor groups.
The conversation with George Soros lasted for two hours, outside the official 30-minute time-limit. The businessman was especially interested in present-day processes in Russia. He named Belarus among the so-called "dictatorships in disguise," as far as on paper there exist all the necessary democratic bodies, whereas true power is concentrated in the hands of one.
The next stage for the united Belarus opposition, as concluded by Anatoly Lebedko, will be its participation in the Bucharest OSCE Parliamentary Assembly session, scheduled for July 6 to 10.
The opposition delegates will propose their amendments to the OSCE resolution on Belarus and hope to get a unanimous vote in favour of them. However, things do not look so easy with the powerful Russian delegation, guided by Speaker Seleznev, who is heading to Romania to confront them.
Victor Lukyanow, 1 July 2000
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