Aug 21, 2008
NYT: Belarus released the last 2 prisoners who the West says were held because of their political beliefs, according to 1 of the prisoners and the mother of the other. The move opens the door to improved ties with the US and the EU at a time when a newly aggressive Russia is causing jitters among former Soviet republics.
Sergei Parsyukevich, a businessman jailed in April after protesting new rules on businesses introduced by President Lukashenko said at a hastily arranged news conference on Wednesday that he believed that Western pressure had secured his release. The other prisoner, Andrei Kim, is also a businessman and had been sentenced to a year and a half in jail for attacking a policeman at the protest.
Last week, Aleksandr V. Kazulin, the most prominent activist in Belarus, was freed. Mr. Lukashenko has tried to improve ties with the West since rows with Russia over gas prices in 2006 and 2007, but had been told that the issue of political prisoners was a key stumbling block.
Couple issues here...odd time to try to strengthen ties with the West. Or maybe it's brilliant. Maybe sneaking in these stories while everyone is interesting in Georgia helps Belarus strengthen ties while mollifying any signs of weakness.
Other issue, I'm not convinced that these are the only political prisoners left. I mean just because "the West" says they were doesn't mean there aren't others they decided to exclude, for example, Emanuel Zeltser (www.saveemanuelzeltser.com).