VILNIUS - The Belarusian foreign ministry has refused to issue a visa to Lithuanian member of parliament Emanuelis Zingeris, who had planned to take part in the 7th Congress of Belarus Democratic Forces, which took place in Minsk on May 26 - 27. "Belarusian president Aleksander Lukashenko, by refusing me a visa, has once again confirmed that he does not accept the ideas of freedom and civic society that are coming from Lithuania and Europe," Zingeris said in a May 25 statement.
"Lukashenko refuses to apply Council of Europe and European Union standards at home. This is the last regime that follows the Soviet Union's traditions and goals," the statement added.
Zingeris also noted that despite the fact he was refused a visa by Belarusian authorities, he will continue to support democratic forces in his neighboring country and will do his best to achieve the most favorable conditions for Belarusian citizens transiting to other European Union countries via Lithuania.
Valdimir Orechov, another Lithuanian MP who was invited to take part in the Minsk congress, was issued a visa and participated in the event.
Speaking to the BNS news agency Orechov said he enjoyed a warm welcome in Minsk and said that the government did not interfere during the congress.
Orechov also said Zingeris was not the only politician whom Belarusian authorities refused entry into the country. He however refused to specify who else was refused a visa.
This was not the first time Zingeris was refused entry into Belarus. Zingeris and another five Lithuanian lawmakers were also refused visas in March 2006, when they had hoped to observe the March 19 presidential elections. At the time ten other Lithuanian parliamentarians were allowed to make the trip. Later, however, following Lithuania's strong criticism of the elections, Belarusian state-owned TV accused the Lithuanian embassy in Belarus of organizing riots, which took place in Minsk two weeks after the elections.
The Lithuanian government constantly criticizes Belarus for its record on human rights but nevertheless maintains contacts with the Lukashenko regime, primarily for economic reasons.