Belarus' opposition leaders on plans for 2008

Opposition leaders met with reporters on Tuesday to share their plans for this year and sum up their activities in 2008.

Syarhey Kalyakin, chairman of the Belarusian Party of Communists, described 2008 as successful in general for the opposition. Its major coalition became stronger and carried out one of its most successful election campaigns, he said.

"Judging from the support that people gave us during the [September parliamentary] elections, we can say that we are on the right path," Mr. Kalyakin said.

"I think that the most important task this year will be the protection of social and economic rights of citizens," he said. "The collapse of the rubel, which was orchestrated by the government at the beginning of the year, has resulted into the losses of people's savings. The change in the rate of the Belarusian rubel will mainly affect those who do not have large savings and who live from pay to pay. In this instance, the United Pro-democratic Forces should look for answers about how these problems should be tackled and help people defend their rights."

"We are in the middle of the so-called six-month probation period that started in October and will end in April," Vintsuk Vyachorka, deputy chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front, said, referring to the European Union's move to suspend its travel sanctions against top Belarusian officials in October in an attempt to encourage democratic reform in the country.

"The first half of the period shows that the authorities have no intention to take serious steps to restore basis democratic freedoms and standards. But we have been and will be pushing for the restoration of the standards. I think that only free people can treasure their independence and cope with any challenge, including the economic crisis," Mr. Lyabedzka said.

Anatol Lyabedzka, leader of the United Civic Party, said that his party would campaign this year for stronger social safeguards to people, press freedom, and human rights.