As the EU called for the immediate release of Belarus opposition leader Aleksander Kozulin, the Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek condemned the use of force against crowds protesting against the results of the recent presidential elections. Mr Paroubek also said the Czech foreign ministry was considering concrete ways of supporting those arrested in the crackdown against demonstrators. Rob Cameron has this report.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek condemned the police crackdown of peaceful protest gatherings in no uncertain terms. The brutal violence used against the protestors, he said in a statement, had proved the regime of Alexander Lukashenko was afraid of democracy. Prime Minister Paroubek said what was happening in Minsk only confirmed that Czech efforts to criticise Belarus at the recent EU summit were justified.
Mr Paroubek's words echoed comments made on Friday by the former president and now human rights advocate Vaclav Havel. Mr Havel said the one thing the free world could do was isolate the Lukashenko regime by restricting all official contacts with Belarus. The international community must monitor developments in Belarus, he said, and also support the opposition. Vaclav Havel sent a personal letter of support to Alexander Milinkevich, the opposition presidential candidate who stood against Mr Lukashenko in the elections.
The immediate priority now for the Czech government is consolidating support for those who've fallen foul of the Lukashenko government in recent days. Many of those demonstrating in Minsk have been students, who now face expulsion from university. Mr Paroubek suggested that they might be allowed to finish their degrees in the Czech Republic. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said there were already 25 projects in existence to help opponents of the regime. Those projects could, he said, be intensified in the future.
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