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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Belarus Unions, Parties Tell Government to Quit

MINSK, Belarus -- Trade unions and political parties in Belarus moved Friday toward a nationwide general strike demanding the resignation of the government and new, multiparty elections.

The strike is scheduled to begin Tuesday unless Prime Minister Vyacheslav Kebich steps aside and a temporary coalition government takes control of the country pending elections. Organizers charge that Kebich's government is corrupt, pro-Communist and opposed to free-market reforms.

Workers at 22 factories across the former Soviet republic of 10 million people have announced plans to join the strike, organizer Viktor Babayed said Friday. Among them are such huge enterprises as Belarusskaly, a chemical producer with 17,000 employees.

Babayed charged that Belarussian security agencies were putting workers and organizers under "enormous pressure" to avert the strike. Police confiscated 100,000 strike pamphlets from a printing house, he said in a telephone interview.

Labor leaders, nationalists and social democratic parties began organizing the strike after the Belarussian parliament voted last month to replace its chairman, Stanislav Shushkevich.

Shushkevich was an economic reformer who ran into strong resistance from the Soviet-era parliament. He was ousted after being implicated in a corruption scandal, but his reformist allies said the move was actually a backlash by hardliners.