Belarus KGB slams award of EU human rights prize

MINSK - Belarus's KGB security service said on Friday opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich was not worthy of the European Parliament's Sakharov human rights prize.

Milinkevich, who challenged President Alexander Lukashenko's bid for re-election in March, was awarded the prize on Thursday in an apparent bid by the West to hasten the demise of what Washington has dubbed 'Europe's last dictatorship'.

'It is a completely biased situation ... It means Europe is really in trouble if there is no one more worthy of the Sakharov prize,' Stepan Sukhorenko, head of the security service - still known by the Soviet acronym KGB - told reporters.

'The West's interest in Belarus is constant - they never stop interfering in Belarus' domestic affairs as well as financing the Belarussian opposition,' he added.

Milinkevich was awarded the prize, named after Soviet nuclear scientist and rights activist Andrei Sakharov, for furthering freedom of thought in a country whose leaders are accused of crushing fundamental human rights.

Lukashenko, in power since 1994, has led his ex-Soviet state into isolation and has been frequently criticised by Western governments for silencing media and oppressing opponents.

Leading U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney, have branded Lukashenko's government 'Europe's last dictatorship'.

Milinkevich led unprecedented protests against Lukashenko's March re-election, which was branded fraudulent by the opposition.

He was arrested and jailed for 15 days in April after he said Lukashenko could be forced from power within two years. He said he plans to donate the 50,000 euro ($63,000) prize money to help Belarussians who suffered for political ideals.