U.S. Department of State
Press Statement by Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Belarus: Belarusian Authorities Assure Safety of Opposition Leaders
During the week of May 22-26, Belarusian opposition leaders Anatoly Lebedko, Vintsuk Vyachorka, Dimitry Bondarenko, and Pavel Zhuk met with State Department and National Security Council officials as well as Congressional leaders in Washington. Following these meetings, Belarusian ruler Aleksandr Lukashenko, whose legal term in office as President of Belarus ended on July 20, 1999, reportedly threatened to treat these opposition leaders as "possible security threats."
Subsequently, the State Department expressed concerns in Washington and Minsk about these alleged threats and received assurances from the Belarusian authorities that Mr. Lukashenko had been misinterpreted and that opposition leaders would face no reprisals on the basis of the meetings they had held in Washington.
The United States regards with great seriousness the safety and liberty of these individuals and welcomes these assurances. The resolution of the political and constitutional crisis in Belarus requires open dialogue between the opposition and the authorities, something that cannot occur in a climate of fear. To create a climate conducive to dialogue, the United States urges Belarusian authorities to immediately release of all political prisoners, including Vladimir Kudinov, Andrei Klimov, and Vasily Leonov; to terminate the political trial of Nikolai Statkevich and Valery Shchukin; to account for disappeared opposition leaders Yury Zakharenko and Victor Gonchar and to refrain from taking new steps that would lead the country further from democracy.
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