Leaders wave off accusations by Belarusian TV

  • 2006-03-29
  • From wire reports
VILNIUS - Lithuanian leaders dismissed accusations by a Belarusian TV station that the Lithuanian Embassy in Minsk was instigating last week's opposition demonstrations in the city's central square. "As we have learned from opposition representatives, riots on the streets of the Belarusian capital today proceeded in accordance with instructions received from the European Union," the TV program stated.

"After candidate (Alexander) Milinkevich suffered a crushing defeat in the elections, EU Foreign Policy Commissioner Javier Solana and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Adamas Valionis [a mistake by the Belarusian journalist, since the minister's name is Antanas] gave personal instructions. Directives have been sent to the opposition from neighboring states, namely from Poland, on a regular basis, and all actions have been coordinated by the Lithuanian Embassy in Minsk. There are many Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian citizens among detained riot organizers. Embassies of these countries have actively taken care of their release."

The report ended by saying, "This leads us to the conclusion that all the riots on the streets were sanctioned by foreign countries and their diplomatic missions. This is the most severe violation of international standards and open interference in Belarus' domestic policy." Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas has called the report "absolute nonsense." He said such accusations were "an insult to Lithuania" and refused to bother trying to formulate a reply.

"Rejoinders are not my business. It should be discussed. We have the (State) Defense Council," Brazauskas said.
Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis has also refused to "dispute" the broadcast.
"We do not comment on such reports. It is not the business of the foreign minister or the Foreign Ministry to argue with any television channel," Valionis told reporters on March 27.

President Valdas Adamkus said Lithuania had no intention of reacting to the televised allegations.
"First of all, there is no proof that Lithuania has participated in any of the actions. If the dictatorial system wants to shift the blame and hide its shortcomings, let them. We will not comment," Adamkus said. Belarus' first national TV channel reported that foreign diplomatic missions, including Lithuania, had participated in Minsk riots following autocrat Aleksandr Lukashenko's re-election as president on March 19. The president's landslide victory was deemed "undemocratic" by observers from all Western countries and led to days of protests by Belarusians and their supporters.

As Valionis explained, "Lithuania has worked to promote the organization of a civil society in Belarus: conferences, seminars, as well as joint meetings with the opposition involving Solana, U.S. representatives. We have also opened a university [the European Humanities University, which was banished from Belarus in Vilnius] and are receiving funding for it. All of this contributes to the formation of a civil society and people's consciousness."
In his words, Lithuania has maintained a common EU policy toward Belarus.

On March 27, the ministry issued a statement censuring the detention of peaceful opposition protesters in Minsk. Following Lukashenko's 83-percent victory, the Belarusian opposition staged an unprecedented protest in October Square to express disapproval of the official election results. Joint opposition candidate Milinkevich received merely 6 percent of the vote.
The Belarusian militia, which usually dissolves street protests, did not interfere for six days. But in the early hours of March 24, the police stormed the rowdy crowd. The opposition held one more rally the following day, in which Kozulin was detained.
On March 27, a protest rally was staged outside the Lithuanian Embassy in Minsk, against the Baltic state's alleged interference into Belarusian affairs.

About 50 persons - mainly pensioners and members of the state youth organization - gathered outside the embassy. Staff members reported that some participants waved Belarusian and old Soviet flags, and that a sign reading "Lithuania and Belarus - Sisters Forever in United Europe" was erected on embassy territory.
Reports suggested that dozens of Lithuanian protestors were among those detained on March 25. However, the Lithuanian Embassy has refuted this information.