Several thousand supporters of the Belarusan democratic opposition marked Human Rights Day — December 10 — at a rally in central Minsk yesterday. The Popular Front, the Social-Democrat and Civic Action parties, and the Fund to Support the Independent Press were among the main organizers of the event. Leaders of these groups, addressing the rally, pointed out that practically all of them had been arrested repeatedly and heavily fined or had served short-term prison sentences for their political activity. The organizers collected signatures under the Charter-97 program, which remains largely unknown in the country owing to state control of the mass media.
The U.S. embassy in Minsk issued on the same day a statement which noted growing international concern over violations of civil and political rights in Belarus. The statement urged the government to correct its internal policies if it wishes to overcome its international isolation. Meanwhile, in Washington, an exiled Popular Front leader, Syarhey Navumchik, issued an appeal to Western governments and human rights organizations to investigate also the ethnic and linguistic aspects of political oppression in Belarus. The appeal drew attention to the authorities’ use of the mass media and schools to promote linguistic russification and erase the native Belarusan culture. (Russian agencies, December 9-10)
Duma Hard-Liners Rob Foreign Ministry of Tactical Flexibility in Moldova.