Man's Disappearance Spurs Wife's Activism

The disappearance of her husband turned Krasovskaya from a self-described "ordinary woman" into a political activist. She recently met with members of Congress and State Department officials, urging the United States to take an active role in promoting democracy in her country.

"I had an ordinary family with my children and my husband and that was all I wanted," she said. "I only got involved in politics because they took away my husband."

A bill has been under discussion in the Senate, the Defense of Democracy in Belarus Act, which would call for more sanctions on Belarus if the government does not change its policies.

The Belarussian Embassy spokesman said the measure would be counterproductive.

"We do not believe it is a constructive way to solve the differences in relations between the two countries," he said. "It is not going to help."

The human rights group Amnesty International said in a recent report that the Belarussian government has begun closing human rights groups and independent media organizations as the country prepares for a referendum next year on whether the constitution should be amended to allow Lukashenko to remain in office.

The State Department, like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has criticized Belarus in the past for the way elections have been run, alleging that independent media has been repressed and opposition candidates have been arrested on trumped-up charges to prevent them from being elected.

Despite the alleged campaign of repression, there are many opposition groups in Belarus.

Five political parties — the Belarussian People's Front, the Party of Communists of Belarus, the Belarussian Labour Party and the Belarussian Social Democratic Hramada — announced earlier this month that they had formed a coalition for the upcoming parliamentary elections. The youth group Zubr (Bison) stages frequent demonstrations and its protest graffiti can be seen all across the country.

But Krasovskaya says there is another, even more widespread opposition.

"This is the opposition of the whole population in their kitchens," she said. "This is because everyone knows it is very dangerous to say anything about Lukashenko except in the kitchen."

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