Under orders from President Aleksandr Lukashenko, the Belarusan Security Council yesterday launched an investigation into the activities of the Belarus branch of the Soros Foundation and its real or alleged local grantees. Also yesterday, Lukashenko stated at a meeting with former Communist party and government leaders of the Belorussian SSR that he is ordering investigations against other foundations that allegedly "finance the opposition," and will expel foreign citizens who "interfere in Belarus’ internal affairs." On March 17 the authorities expelled the Soros Foundation’s Minsk office director, U.S. citizen Peter Byrne. State television aired several inflammatory programs in this connection, inter alia accusing Popular Front leader Yury Khadyka, prominent journalist Yury Drakokhrust (who doubles as an RFE/RL correspondent), and deputies of the legitimate parliament — Pavel Daneika and Anatol Lyabedzka — of receiving large dollar sums. The allegations are seen locally as a possible prelude to prosecution. In Washington, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns issued a strongly-worded protest against these repressive measures "which must not be allowed to succeed." (Belapan, Interfax, March 18-19)
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