Belarus Is Personal

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Submitted by Anonymous Guest on Tue, 2010-12-21 20:16

Perhaps you have read about the recent atrocities in Belarus, a former Soviet-bloc country in Eastern Europe. This past week that country's government held another rigged "election," and now long-time Stalinist dictator Alexander Lukashenko has cracked down on his opponents with a ferocity not seen since the worst days of the old Soviet empire.

Lukashenko's KGB — yes, they still call it that — violently crushed a mass protest demonstration in the streets of Minsk, arresting hundreds and sending many young men and women to the hospitals. More outrageously, his goons have viciously beaten and brazenly kidnapped seven of his opposition presidential candidates. They are now being held incommunicado at undisclosed prisons and jails, being subjected to brutal treatment and interrogations.

Jaroslav Romanchuk
What you may not know is that the matter is personal, for many of us. One of Lukashenko's high-profile political opponents is Jaroslav Romanchuk — a long-time admirer of Ayn Rand's writings. I met him at a Rand conference in Vermont in 1999 and have followed his activities as much as possible since then.

Jaroslav, who represents the United Civil Party, is one of the rarest politicians in the world: He is a staunch free-market economist and an Objectivist — rightly regarded as an intensely brave, even brilliant, man. See for yourself, in this interview that Robert Bidinotto conducted with him in 2006.

Right now Jaroslav is trying to elude capture by the goons that Lukashenko has dispatched to arrest or kill him. There have been past attempts on his life already, so his situation is serious.

Tomas Krsmanovic
One of the most practical short-term strategies for keeping Jaroslav alive would be to have an American citizen — preferably a reporter with quick access to media outlets — standing by his side at all times.

This approach has been used successfully in similar situations, such as in 1996 when my friend Steve went to then-Yugoslavia to help prevent the assassination of pro-freedom Milosevic dissident Tomas Krsmanovic, whom I got to know during my own visit to Belgrade last year.

Many of you will recognize this Steve — whose last name I won't include here since he's applying for a Visa to enter Belarus, and the KGB has heard of the internet — because he's a long-time columnist for the Atlasphere. And a trained reporter. And a seasoned activist for pro-freedom causes in Eastern Europe.

Steve has sufficient professional connections in the region to enter Belarus quickly, where he could live and work at Jaroslav's side until the situation settles down. This trip would be sponsored by no newspaper or government agency; it would be a private effort, arranged by those of us who wish to support Jaroslav's safety.

What Steve needs, and quickly, is funds to help pay for a plane ticket. Steve has the experience and logistical connections to make this happen, but needs financial support from those of us who understand the need to act fast.

With that said, here are a few things you can do right now to help:

Publicize this article. Please help us disseminate this article as widely as possible, as fast as possible, among principled advocates of political freedom.
Put pressure on the Obama administration to act. If you have a blog, a Facebook page, or an e-mail announcement list, please request that your readers call or write the White House and ask the Administration to organize international sanctions and universal condemnations of the brutal Lukashenko regime. Encourage the Administration to demand the immediate release and end of persecution of these political prisoners.
Support Steve's trip. If you can afford to help Steve with the cost of his plane ticket, please send it to him immediately, via PayPal, at swabrow at yahoo.com. Last minute international plane tickets can cost a couple thousand dollars. I just sent Steve $50.00. If forty other Atlasphere members do the same thing today, he'll have a plane ticket tomorrow. (I'll update this article once Steve gets enough money.) Were the plan to get aborted for some reason, he'll refund our money. Steve's personal e-mail address, if you have questions, is swabrow at msn.com.
Our united efforts at this critical moment may very well save the lives of some courageous champions of liberty. Right now, they're isolated and facing torture or death. Their freedom would be a Christmas present for which they and their desperate families would be forever grateful.

UPDATE: In subsequent developments, we have learned that Jaroslav is not in hiding. He is one of two opposition leaders that has not been arrested and is, in fact, in discussions with Lukashenko himself. Steve — who was involved in the production of this column and whose safety is not endangered by its publication — still intends to go to Belarus in order to get to the bottom of the rumors being circulated about Jaroslav.

Joshua Zader is the founder of the Atlasphere and co-founder of Atlas Web Development. He is temporarily living and working from Estonia.


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