BELARUS - 27th March 2006
1. Crackdowns intensify against opposition demonstrators
The main news story of the week is the crackdowns on the demonstrators in October Square in Minsk who are protesting the results of the rigged presidential election on 19th March. In the days immediately following the election, with the eyes of the world on Minsk, arrests and provocations only happened surreptitiously in the side streets, away from the cameras. However on the 23rd and 24th March, police broke up the camp (people had been camped out with tents) on October Square and arrested 400 demonstrators.
A large protest took place on Saturday, 25th March, also the anniversary of the short-lived Belarusian Democratic Republic of 1918, a day celebrated by the opposition but ignored by the regime, which recognises only Soviet-era historical landmarks.
At this protest, protesters marched towards the detention centre where their peers were being held, and many more were arrested and beaten.2. Kozulin arrested
Presidential candidiate Alexander Kozulin was one of those arrested Saturday. Contrary to a BBC misunderstanding, he is not the opposition leader. There is no such title in reality, as the opposition is not represented anywhere in parliament or local government, but the main democratic candidate (unified candidate of several democratic parties) was Alexander Milinkievich. Nevertheless, Kozulin’s arrest is a deeply worrying development.
3. Human Rights Watch calls for arrests of demonstrators to stop4. Foreign Ministry says EU/US misrepresenting reality
“It is obvious for objective monitors that the situation in Belarus is absolutely calm. In this regard we resolutely urge the European Union and the United States to stop trying to destabilize the situation from outside.”
5. EU/US impose visa bans on Belarusian officials
An EU-wide and USA visa ban was already in place: (see http://www.fco.gov.uk/ to stop Lukashenko and his ministers from travelling to these countries, a ban which will now hopefully be extended to the Central Election Commission and civil servants. But it’s all lost on the Belarusian Foreign Minister, who acts puzzled:
6. Belarusian Foreign Ministry rejects US statements on legitimacy of presidential ballot
7. LA Times provides platform for Belarusian regimeThe Los Angeles Times has interviewed Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov – a man barred from entering the EU or USA – and prompted him with questions blaming the USA’s reaction to the elections on certain “conservative circles” in Washington.
UZBEKISTAN - 27th March 2006
1. Karimov to visit South Korea
The afore-mentioned travel ban to civilised democracies does not apply to Uzbekistan’s government, although EU travel sanctions do exist, and as such Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov will be paying a state visit to South Korea on 28th-30th March.
There are already substantial ties between the 2 countries, with many Uzbek migrants working in South Korea and Daewoo owning a plant in Uzbekistan.
2. “Beijing in action” photo exhibition opens in Tashkent3. New Uzbek Ambassador to Ukraine announced
“During the conversation that took place there, Yushchenko wished Khaidarov success in his new position and expressed confidence that Uzbek-Ukrainian cooperation would develop further in all directions, Jahon added.” Hopefully this will not involve the continuation of the practice of sending Uzbek asylum seekers from Ukrainian territory back to Uzbekistan to face torture, on which I reported some weeks ago.
Chris Patten warns of “self-destructively repressive” regime in
5. Germany’s relations with Uzbekistan “shame its democratic reputation”
Germany has maintained diplomatic relations with Uzbekistan since the Andijan massacre. I reported some weeks ago of a Bundestag mission to Tashkent. Craig Murray, the ex-UK ambassador sacked by Jack Straw, has made one of his regular outspoken (and slightly irresponsible) comments on his website saying that the only possible reason for Germany’s enthusiasm for the regime is “a hereditary yearning for fascism.”
The actual explanation may be at the closely-related other extreme of the spectrum: Joschka Fischer, the former Foreign Minister and greatest advocate of diplomatic ties with Tashkent, has been revealed to have been an “achtundsechziger” – member of the student organisations protesting in 1968. They were rumoured to be financed by the Baader-Meinhof Gang, a front for the DDR. President Karimov was formerly the Communist Party chairman for the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic and runs his country as if it were still the USSR.
Murray has previously reported that when he made his speech to Freedom House which first gained his notoriety, stating “Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy,” he had followed the German ambassador’s speech congratulating the ending of torture and the lifting of press censorship, neither of which had (or have) happened.