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26 members of the Riigikogu today formed the Association in Defence of Democratic Development of Belarus. Vladimir Velman was elected chairman of the Association and Andres Herkel deputy chairman.

According to Herkel, the problem of Belarus is on the foreground in connection with the presidential elections taking place on 19 March and the so-called “anti-revolution law”, adopted in Belarus at the end of last year, which considerably limits political freedoms.

“Belarus is the only country that geographically belongs to Europe but is not a member of the Council of Europe. Because of the lack of democracy, also the special guest status of Belarus was suspended," Herkel said.

Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Belarus of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Herkel remarked that several members of the Assembly have supported his proposal to hold an extraordinary debate on the issue of Belarus. According to draft order of business, if the Assembly supports it, the PACE will discuss the situation in Belarus at its plenary session on 26 January.

On 7 February the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu also plans to hold a public sitting on the issue of Belarus in which Ivan Czurylowicz, representative of the presidential candidate of the United Democratic Opposition of Belarus Alyaksandr Milinkevich in the European Union, should participate.

Czurylowicz is at the same time the assistant of Janusz Onyszkiewicz, member of the European Parliament from Poland. Onyszkiewicz belongs to the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Milinkevich was elected presidential candidate by the opposition congress that took place in Minsk in October 2005 and represents a broad opposition coalition uniting ten political parties and more than two hundred citizens’ associations.

The Foreign Affairs Committee sitting will take place on 7 February at 2 p.m. in the White Hall of the Riigikogu.

More information on the Foreign Affairs Committee sitting: Committee Adviser Ivar Mölder, 631 6494.

Riigikogu Press Service

Ülo Mattheus, 631 6352

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