The Belarusian opposition has welcomed President Medvedev's criticism of Lukashenko and vowed to make Moscow's position heard in Strasburg, where the pre-election situation in the ex-Soviet republic is being discussed.
The former chairman of the Supreme Council of Belarus and one of active opposition leaders, Stanislau Shushkevich, said he was glad the Russian leader gave his view on Aleksandr Lukashenko and his presidency. "I believe that now Russia will take the path of decent policy in relations with Belarus," Shushkevich said in an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper.
In a video blog posted on Sunday, Dmitry Medvedev slammed President Lukashenko's anti-Russian rhetoric, saying that his entire election campaign is built on "insults and accusations aimed at Russia". The Russian head of state said that the Belarusian leader is trying to portray Russia as an enemy, adding that Lukashenko's "utterances not only go beyond all diplomatic sense, they are downright indecent."
The presidential campaign in Belarus is in full swing, with the voting date set for December 19. It remains to be seen if any of candidates will manage to beat the main contender, the uncimbent Lukashenko, who has been ruling the state for 16 years.
This week, from October 4 to 7, the pre-election situation in the former Soviet republic is in the spotlight in Strasburg, at the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) under the Council of Europe.
"We will try our best to make Belarusian people hear Dmitry Medvedev's words in Strasburg as well," Shushkevich said in his interview with NG. For the first time ever, "Moscow's hand" will be considered as a positive element of influence on the situation in Belarus, the paper notes.
Shushkevich recalled that back in 1997, when the Belarusian parliament attempted to have Lukashenko impeached, Russia rescued him.
"Thanks to Moscow, democratic processes in Belarus were ended then. From that moment, Russia has been the only country that recognized Belarusian elections as legitimate," he said. The politician expressed hope that from now on the situation will change radically and the opposition will make sure Medvedev's stance is delivered to the Belarusian people as well as to Europe.
Commenting on the issue to Russia's Channel One, Shushkevich also added that he was glad that Medvedev's statement was made in a calm and dignified tone.
"This was a slap in the face; nothing like that has ever happened before," he said. "I dismiss any thought that Lukashenko will remain president after the election. The maximum rating he currently has is about 30 per cent."