Thursday, June 09, 2011

Belarus: Europe's Last Dictator Slashes Fuel Prices Following Protests

Source: Voice of America

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko on Wednesday slashed the prices of fuel following protests along the streets of the capital, Minsk.

The government had raised the cost of fuel by 30 percent the day before, prompting hundreds of motorists to stage a protest rally along the main avenue in the capital city.

Meanwhile, Russia's state-controlled exporter Inter RAO UES said it may cut electricity supplies to Belarus, which it says has accumulated a $54 million debt since March.

Belarus is struggling with dwindling foreign currency reserves and a sharply devalued ruble. Consumer prices have increased by 20 percent in the past five months. The country's worsening economic situation has led to rising inflation and panic buying of consumer goods.

The government last week asked the International Monetary Fund for a rescue loan of up to $8 billion to help it cope with the deepening financial crisis.

Belarus on Saturday secured a $3-billion loan from a regional fund led by traditional ally Russia.

The crisis is one of the most serious Mr. Lukashenko has faced in his nearly 17-year rule. His government also is under sanctions from the European Union and the United States, which have criticized him for cracking down on the opposition after his disputed re-election in December.