Monday, October 4, 2010

Kremlin attacks Belarusian leader

MOSCOW, October 3, 2010 (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev harshly criticized Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko on Sunday, accusing him of waging a "hysterical" anti-Russian campaign to boost his bid for re-election on Dec. 19. Ties between the ex-Soviet neighbours have deteriorated sharply in recent months and analysts say the Kremlin could complicate veteran leader Lukashenko's bid to repeat his landslide 2006 victory."The election campaign there is entirely built on anti-Russian plots, hysterical accusations of Russia's unwillingness to support the Belarussians... and on curses against the Russian leadership," Medvedev said in his weekly video blog ( President Lukashenko in his comments has gone far beyond not only the diplomatic rules, but also basic human decency," he said. "There is a clear desire to set our two states, and hence our two peoples, against each other." For most of his 16 years in power Lukashenko, 55, has enjoyed Russian support as a counterweight to antagonism from Western leaders who accuse him of prolonging his rule through rigged elections and the suppression of dissent. But a series of diplomatic and trade spats have poisoned their relationship in recent months. The Kremlin is furious at Minsk's failure to recognize the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states after Russia's 2008 war with Georgia. In his blog, Medvedev described Lukashenko as "dishonest" for reneging on a pledge to recognize the regions that he said was made in front of five other heads of state.Relations between were soured further when Belarus in April gave refuge to former Kyrgyz leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was criticised by Moscow. Lukashenko's intermittent efforts to woo the West have also infuriated Moscow.As ties deteriorated, Moscow hiked energy prices and withdrew $2 billion worth of effective annual subsidies on oil supplied to Belarus refineries. In June, Minsk threatened to cut Russian gas transit to Europe in a pricing dispute. Lukashenko, Medvedev said, had proved ungrateful for years of generous Russian financial support. Medvedev's attack comes after Russian state television this summer ran three documentaries that accused Lukashenko of rampant corruption. Lukashenko in turn accused officials in Medvedev's administration of orchestrating "an intentional flow of shameless lies, absurdities and outright misinformation about Belarus" at a press conference in Minsk on Friday. Despite its criticism of Lukashenko, Moscow has not backed any of the 14 candidates running him in December. The opposition has failed to chose a united candidate as they did in 2006.