Belarus Lets Newspapers Return

KIEV — Two opposition newspapers in Belarus, forced for several years to publish abroad, are to resume printing in the ex-Soviet state, an editor said Friday.

The announcement by Iosif Seredich, editor of Narodnaya Volya, follows pledges by the European Union to intensify dialogue with Belarus if it moves to promote democratic values, including press freedom.

Also due to resume publication in Belarus is the Belorusskaya Niva newspaper.

"We held talks with [state publisher] Belsoyuzpechat, with a printing house and with the Belarussian post office, and everyone was delighted to agree to our request," Seredich said.

"Previous requests were simply rejected out of hand," he said. "Today, I was met with open arms."

There was no government comment on the announcement.

Government restrictions on the use of state printing plants in 2004 and 2005 forced many opposition papers to print outside Belarus — some over the border in Russia, others in Lithuania.

The two papers concerned are now printed in Russia's western town of Smolensk.

President Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994, has long been accused of flouting fundamental rights but for the last year has been calling for improved relations with the West since quarrelling with Russia over energy prices.