Human Rights Issues in Eurasia / Правовые Вопросы В Регионах Евразии

Belarus Leader May Trade Rivals’ Freedom for Financial Aid To Get From Economic Crisis

Posted by Info on 26/05/2011

The president, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, indicated that he might free his imprisoned political rivals, a signal that he could be ready to strike a deal with Western governments in exchange for financial support.
Belarussian ruble was devalued by an additional 36 percent this week, and many economists say it could plunge further.

Until now, Mr. Lukashenko has openly mocked demands from the United States and the European Union to release about two dozen opposition figures who were jailed for participating in a large protest over the president’s victory in fraud-riddled elections last year.

A large foreign bailout is imperative, economists say, but a $3 billion loan tentatively offered by Russia has been slow in coming, and might not be enough in any case.

“They are still screaming, ‘Free the political prisoners,’ Mr. Lukashenko said Wednesday, referring to Western officials. “We’ll free them probably. No need to blow government money on prisons, eating up bread.”
“This is a signal that our government is now open to a deal,” said Sergei Chaly, an independent economist.

Both the United States and the European Union have imposed economic sanctions against top officials in Belarus, including the president, contingent on the release of the prisoners.The police brutally dispersed tens of thousands of people who converged last December on a large square in Minsk to contest the presidential elections. Hundreds were arrested, and opposition leaders have since been sentenced to up to five years in prison for organizing the rally.

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