Despite the fall of the Soviet Union, the Republic of Belarus, has reverted back to the ways of old. During his ten years in power, President
Alexander Lukashenko, has disbanded parliament, taken control of the media, and reintroduced Soviet era symbols. Now some both in the Ukraine as well
as Belarus are hopeful that the revolution that swept through the Ukraine can also happen there.
KIEV, Ukraine - "Today Ukraine, tomorrow Belarus!" read a banner strung up this week in a tent camp for opposition protesters.
Belarus, Ukraine's northern neighbor, is one of Europe's most repressive societies. During his 10 years in power, President Alexander Lukashenko has
reintroduced Soviet symbols, disbanded parliament, seized control of media and isolated his country with authoritarian rule.
Many opposition leaders are either sitting in jail or have disappeared.
Those that aren't in prison can be found here, at Kiev's Independence Square, the epicenter of the Ukrainian opposition protests and the new meeting
place for the Belarusian opposition.
Hundreds of activists and leaders of isolated Belarusian parties and movements have traveled here to watch Ukraine's popular revolt ó and take notes
on democracy in action.
"The Orange Revolution has reawakened hope in Belarusians and has colossal meaning for us," said Igor Stakh, a 23-year-old member of a Belarusian
youth movement called Zubr, or Bison, whose tent sits among those of his young Ukrainian comrades.
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This is a very interesting play to watch. The relationship between Putin and Lukashenko is not the best, but Russia does provide the republic with
discounted oil and gas. Some analysts have speculated that if Russia looses influence in the Ukraine, they may attempt to strengthen their
relationship with Belarus. Putin is very wary of further NATO expansion and yet another West leaning government on his borders would no doubt make him
all the more nervous.
[edit on 12/10/04 by FredT]