March 3, 2006

Washington, DC (JBANC) — The government of Belarus has begun a major crackdown of opposition forces in Belarus. Planned peaceful demonstrations in the capital Minsk have seen an overwhelming presence of military and security forces and the current situation has been described as very tense.

In addition, the government is apparently interfering with lines of communication with the West, and cutting off access to websites such as Charter ’97, which has reliably been relating news from independent sources in that country: www.charter97.org and the opposition Zubr webiste:www.zubr-belarus.com

Western reporters are also being reported as being detained.

Messaging from opposition sources is currently being rerouted. Current reports are that about 500 demonstrators in the central square in Minsk with opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich surrounded by police and security. Another opposition presidential candidate, Alexander Kozulin, has been reportedly beaten by police and arrested, along with about a dozen of his supporters (from Reuters). A new unconfirmed report says that Kozulin has been released and the demonstration has been dispersed by riot police.

Earlier unconfirmed sources reported that similar mass arrests were taking place. The Government has issued a declaration that all public gatherings are illegal. Besides the capital Minsk, a heavy Belarusian military presence is also being felt in the cities of Homel and Vitebsk. These forces are reportedly coming in with their own telecommunications equipment, in order to take command of those points of access.

The Belarusian KGB is saying that this is a western-inspired coup attempt with troops from Ukraine and Georgia participating (mosnews.com).

At this critical juncture, the Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) is urging continued calls to Congress ask for co sponsors for H. Res. 673, showing support for the people of Belarus and urging that the government of “Europe’s Last Dictator” Alexander Lukashenko hold fair and free elections on March 19.

Despite the efforts of the Belarus government to obscure what is going on, the world will be watching.