Belarus. In January 1999, the ambassadors returned from a number of EU countries to the Belarussian capital of Minsk after being called home for over six months. Visit Countryaah official website to get information about the capital city of Belarus. A compromise had then been reached in the conflict over their residence. The US ambassador returned permanently only in September.
The conflict between the oppressed Belarusian opposition and the dictatorial Aljaksandr Lukashenka intensified during the year. According to a previous constitution, the president’s term in office would have expired in July. But after a disputed – and rejected by the OSCE – referendum in 1996, Lukashenka had dissolved the elected parliament, amended the constitution, extended its own term of office by two years and hand-picked a new parliament. The opposition gathered in January 1999 the dissolved parliament, which decided on the election of new president in May. The regime dismissed the decision as invalid and intensified the persecution of the opposition, which in turn demanded Lukashenka’s departure before the election. In March, Viktor Hanchar, chairman of the opposition election commission, was arrested. When he was released, his wife stated that he had been tortured. In the same month, one of the two main candidates in the unofficial presidential election, Former Prime Minister Michail Chyhir, charged with crime in connection with his post as bank manager. He was then jailed without trial until November.
In April, the authorities conducted local elections boycotted by the opposition, as almost only loyalist candidates were allowed to stand. Prior to the alternative presidential election, hundreds of opposition opposition workers were arrested, and the election itself was so much hampered by the authorities that the Election Commission declared it invalid. However, it was clear that Zianon Paznjak, leader of the Belarusian People’s Front, received more votes than Michail Chyhir.
On July 20, Lukashenka’s original five-year term would have expired. The following day, several thousand people demonstrated in Minsk demanding the departure of the president. Over 50 protesters were arrested. At the same time, members of the dissolved Parliament declared their President Siamjon Sjaretski as acting president. However, he was forced to flee to Lithuania for fear of his safety.
In September, the OSCE started talks between the regime and the opposition, which included demanded to know what happened to several of its prominent missing members. This included Viktar Hanchar. In the same month, the opposition newspaper Navini was forced to close, at the same time as the main opposition movement, the Belarusian people front, was divided. Zianon Paznjak was elected leader of the newly formed Conservative Christian Party. He then fled the country, probably to Poland.
The World Bank re-established a permanent office in Belarus in June after close to a year’s absence. The interruption was due to the bank’s view that the country’s economic reforms were delayed. Belarus’s economic crisis continued, and inflation reached over 100% during the year. The country is very much dependent on the Russian Federation for trade, and about 20,000 people went out in Minsk in October in protest against Lukashenka’s plans for even closer cooperation with Moscow through a union. Several thousand ended up in a fight with police and about fifty were arrested. But despite continued protests, the union agreement was signed in December between Belarus and the Russian Federation. The two countries will remain independent, but must coordinate the legislation, have close military cooperation and in the long term obtain common currency.