Belarusian President warns action against protesters

June 15th, 2011 - 5:04 am ICT by IANS  

Minsk, June 15 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Tuesday he will clampdown hard on anyone found protesting against an export ban on fuel and certain goods, the Belta news agency said.

The export ban has been imposed to protect the country’s floundering economy.

“Our svyadomyya [opposition] is calling through Internet social networks for protests, protests on the border,” Lukashenko said. “I will watch, watch and then strike, so they do not manage to run away across the border.”

“[They] organise protests because they were not allowed to export fuel, cigarettes and other goods for nothing. Before, we used to call them speculators. And they are speculators.”

Belarusian police suppressed small protests on the Belarusian- Polish border against the export of fuel, various foodstuffs and white goods, arresting and fining participants Sunday and Monday.

International demand for Belarusian products began falling in 2009.

Belarus’ economy had survived for many years, due to Russia’s low tariffs for oil supplies to Belarusian refineries. But Russia introduced a 100 percent tariff on most oil and oil product exports in 2010.

That tariff, coupled with wage increases ahead of last year’s presidential elections, triggered a financial crisis in Belarus.

The Belarusian ruble has come under severe pressure in the first five months of the year from a large trade deficit, generous wage increases and loans granted by the government ahead of the December 2010 presidential elections, which spurred strong demand for foreign currency.

In spring, the country’s authorities devaluated the national currency by 36 percent, froze prices on some staple foods and introduced fuel rationing to keep the lid on the deepening crisis.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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