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Belarus Unmoved Despite Criticism

Published: March 21, 2012 (Issue # 1700)

  • Dmitry Konovalov (l) and Vladislav Kovalev in a defendants cage in court Sept. 15.
    Photo: SERGEI GRITS / AP

MOSCOW TheKremlin onMonday hosted controversial Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko fortalks about deeper economic integration amid growing calls fortougher sanctions against Belarus forthe execution oftwo convicted bombers.

Lukashenko took part ina summit ofthe Eurasian Economic Community, which Prime Minister andPresident-elect Vladimir Putin wants todevelop intoa union offormer Soviet states that would rival theEuropean Union.

Belarussian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Rumas said after thetalks that participants had agreed onworking out concrete steps tocounter any sanctions. All sides agree that no group ofstates should put pressure onany member state, Rumas was quoted as saying byInterfax.

EU officials talked ofintroducing broader economic sanctions against Minsk because ofthe executions ofVladislav Kovalyov andDmitry Konovalov, who were convicted ofcarrying out abomb attack inthe Minsk metro that killed 15 people andwounded more than 300 inApril 2010.

Belarussian state television said over theweekend that thetwo had been executed, prompting horror andoutrage inthe West.

Germanys Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper called Lukashenko amerciless barbarian inan editorial published Monday.

Human rights activists say that thetrial against thetwo had raised suspicion about their guilt. Thedoubts were fueled bya Belarussian High Court decision inJanuary ordering thedestruction ofall material evidence against them.

Critics also said theseemingly hurried execution could be part ofan official cover-up.

An opinion has also been expressed that thedeath sentence was executed so fast because thetwo men knew something about thereal organizers ofthe terrorist attack, Estonian lawmaker Andres Herkel said onhis website.

Jacek Protasiewicz, aPolish member ofthe European Parliament, said the27-country union would probably slap new sanctions against Minsk andwithdraw its ambassadors permanently fromBelarus, leaving its diplomatic relations atconsular level.

Lukashenkos tragic, shocking andincomprehensible decision showed that he is not interested incooperation with theWest, Protasiewicz told Polish radio station RMF FM, website reported.

Last month, theEU recalled its ambassadors fromBelarus after Minsk kicked out thePolish andEU envoys inretaliation forBrussels decision toostracize more Belarussian officials.

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Thursday, Aug. 28

Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.

Friday, Aug. 29

Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.

Saturday, Aug. 30

Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).

Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.

Sunday, Aug. 31

The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.

Monday, Sept. 1

Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.

Tuesday, Sept. 2

Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.

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