According to yesterday’s issue of the official newspaper “Sovetskaya Belorussia” (still so named), criminal proceedings have been launched against former Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir on charges of embezzlement and Chyhir detained for questioning by the Internal Affairs Ministry’s investigative department. The charges stem from Chyhir’s tenure as chairman of the Agro-Industrial Bank in 1994. They seem contrived as a way to stop Chyhir’s candidacy in the presidential election, which is scheduled by the opposition to be held on May 16.
Chyhir’s supporters recently collected more than the 100,000 signatures country-wide, necessary to qualify him for the opposition’s presidential election. His candidacy was due to be officially proclaimed today, but the opposition’s electoral commission had registered his candidacy three days ago as a precautionary measure (Belapan, Itar-Tass, March 29 and 30). Chyhir resigned as prime minister in protest against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s assumption of absolute powers in November 1996.
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