Belarussian opposition leader: Changes in Minsk to come from the streets

Prague, Oct 9 (CTK) - People on the streets will decide on democracy in Belarus and the fall of the authoritarian regime of President Alexander Lukashenko, Belarussian opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich told CTK today.

Milenkevich, who is in Prague attending the Forum 2000 international conference, said that the situation in Belarus improved after the spring presidential elections and the protests their outcome provoked.

People are no longer so afraid, but at the same time Lukashenko's regime is resorting to tougher repression, he said.

"It is becoming clear that it is impossible to oust the dictatorship through elections. The regime would not have changed even if we had won them. We have no tools to achieve re-counting the votes and prove our victory," Milinkevich said.

Lukashenko, who is considered the last European dictator, won re-election in March. According to official results, 83 percent of people voted for him, while Milinkevich reportedly only received 6.1 percent of the vote.

However, the Belarussian opposition and international observers have questioned the election results and described the elections as manipulated.

"We have no other choice but the streets. Without them we will not be able to get rid of the regime," Milinkevich said regarding the opposition strategy.

Several thousand people gathered in the centre of Minsk at post-election rallies and the opposition is preparing further protests.

"Like the victory, they cannot be planned precisely. We must feel the mood in society and understand that people are willing to take to the streets," Milinkevich said.

After the March presidential elections, young people used to regularly gather in the centre of Minsk to express their support for the opposition. However, after a few days, the police intervened, dispersed the demonstrations and arrested the activists.

"The regime is becoming more and more cynical and does not try much to hide its aggression," Milinkevich said.

The increased repression is reflected in the expulsion of students from schools and lay-offs of employees due to their participation in opposition meetings, Milinkevich said.

"This is the worst because the opposition force is becoming the force of the jobless. How can people fight for ideals and democracy when their children have nothing to eat?" Milinkevich said.

In Prague, Milinkevich met former Czech president Vaclav Havel.

"What took place in the former Czechoslovakia can be an inspiration to us. But all things cannot be transferred," he said.

The opposition in Belarus now needs mainly to address people and the European Commission has thus earmarked money for the support of independent broadcasting to Belarus.

Milinkevich said that he had no problems coming to the Czech Republic. "The regime allowed me to leave but it will make the full use of it. They will say that I left for tasks from imperialists and that I received money for destruction," Milenkovich said.