- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2008


Protesters target Lukashenko regime

MINSK | Hundreds protested in Belarus on Sunday after parliamentary elections that could determine whether President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime warms to the West or moves deeper into Russia’s orbit.

Mr. Lukashenko, dubbed “Europe’s last dictator” by Washington, has courted the West in the lead-up to the polls in an apparent bid to thaw relations with the United States and European Union.

Washington and Brussels have offered better ties with the ex-Soviet republic if they approve of the election, which was slammed as a farce by opposition activists in a rally as polling ended at 8 p.m. .

Protesters held banners declaring “No to Farce,” “Dictatorship Should Go to the Dustbin of History,” “No to Russian Military Bases” and “Lukashenko is Europe’s Last Dictator.”

They also waved flags of the European Union, the red-white-red former flag of Belarus eliminated by Mr. Lukashenko in 1996, and orange ones mirroring those used in the pro-Western Orange Revolution in neighboring Ukraine in 2004.

Mr. Lukashenko, the iron-fisted ruler of the economically backward former Soviet state for the past 14 years, has clamped down hard on protests in the past.

On Sunday, however, only a few uniformed police could be seen surrounding the rally, in stark contrast to previous post-election protests in Belarus, which lies wedged between Russia and the 27-nation European Union.


Social Democrats wins, right gains

VIENNA | Austria’s interior minister says preliminary results from parliamentary elections indicate the Social Democrats have won the most votes and that the country’s two far-right parties have seen significant gains.

Maria Fekter says the Social Democrats have secured 29.71 percent of the vote, followed by the People’s Party with 25.61 percent. She says the Freedom Party got 18.01 percent of the vote and the Alliance for the Future of Austria has 10.98 percent.

Ms. Fekter says absentee ballots and those turned in at polling stations outside the voter’s home district have yet to be included in the results. A final tally for Sunday’s election is not expected before Oct. 6.


Troop data gone with missing disks

LONDON | Computer disks that went missing from a British military base contain sensitive data on Royal Air Force personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Sunday.

A ministry spokesman said that two of the three portable hard disks contain personal data on RAF members and that the third disc holds no information on individuals.

The discs went missing Sept. 17 from a secured area in Innsworth, about 113 miles west of London, the spokesman said on the condition of anonymity, in line with government policy.

The disks appear to have been stolen, the ministry said, but added that they have no indication the thieves intended to use the information.

The British government has been hit by a series of embarrassing losses of sensitive data. In January, the Ministry of Defense said a laptop containing the personal details of 600,000 new and prospective military recruits was stolen, and in November, a government department lost a disk that contained the names, addresses and bank details of 25 million people.


Rafters rescued by Bulgaria boat

SOFIA | Two Ukrainians on board a raft have been picked up Sunday by a yacht a day after a Ukrainian ship sank off Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast in bad weather, Bulgaria’s transport ministry said.

But Bulgarian and Turkish authorities could not confirm whether the men were part of the 10 missing crew members from the 5,000-ton Tolstoy, said Nikolay Apostolov, the head of the maritime department.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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