Belarus. The security service stated in January that it
had unveiled a league that planned to sell uranium. The
arrested would have tried to dispose of radioactive fuel
from a nuclear reactor for the equivalent million in SEK.
Belarus has no nuclear power plants and the material was
believed to come from Ukraine, Lithuania or Russia.
The head of the OSCE office in Belarus was ordered in
April to leave the country after the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs refused to extend his visa. The OSCE condemned last
year's presidential election for lack of transparency and
justice, while President Aljaksandr Lukashenka accused the
OSCE of training spies and conspiring to overthrow him.
Countryaah website, two journalists were sentenced in June by a court to two
and a half years in prison camps accused of slandering
President Lukashenka during the election campaign in 2001.
The president had been accused of involvement in the
disappearance of several opposition politicians. The article
was published in the independent weekly magazine Pagonja,
which was published in the city of Grodno in western
Belarus. The magazine was closed by the authorities after
the election but has since been published on the Internet.
Lukashenka also banned the work of several prominent
In July, former prime minister and opposition leader
Michail Chyhir was sentenced to three years in prison.
Chyhir, who was head of government between 1994 and 1996,
was charged with tax evasion during a previous period in the
service of a German company in Moscow. He described the
prosecution as politically motivated. Chyhir resigned in
1996 in protest against Lukashenka's giving itself almost
dictatorial powers. In 2000, Chyhir was also sentenced to
three years' conditional imprisonment. Then he was charged
with abuse of power and banned from holding public office
for five years.
When President Lukashenka visited Moscow in August, his
Russian colleague Vladimir Putin proposed that the two
countries form a union built on Russia's constitution, with
Belarus to be largely part of the Russian Federation.
Lukashenka, who had long dreamed of a union with Russia on a
formally equal basis, reacted most with shock and rejected
Putin's proposal as unacceptable. The Belarusian press
talked about "Moscow's plan to recapture Belarusian
territory" and declared that sovereignty was not for sale.
For once, the president and the opposition agreed on a
crucial political issue, both sides rejected the Russian
ambitions. However, this did not lead to Lukashenka
relieving the oppression of its political opponents.
When Lukashenka was refused entry to the NATO Summit in
Prague in November, he threatened to lift police
surveillance of Belarus's borders and allow "drugs and
illegal immigrants" to invade Western Europe. He claimed
that there were about 150,000 illegal immigrants in Belarus
and that many of them wanted to move west in Europe. In
protest against Lukashenka's totalitarian rule, all EU
countries except Portugal imposed a visa ban on Lukashenka
and seven of his closest men, including Prime Minister,
Foreign and Defense Minister.