Updated at 11:30,08-12-2016

Presidential hopefuls Milinkevich, Kastusyow warn about threat to Belarus independence

Opposition presidential hopefuls Alyaksandr Milinkevich and Ryhor Kastusyow have warned that Belarus may lose its independence because of the government's policies.

"The irresponsible and anti-democratic policies of the government not only impede rapprochement between Belarus and united Europe but also create a danger of losing state independence," the politicians say in a joint statement issued on August 25 on the occasion of the 19th anniversary of the constitutional law status of Belarus Declaration of State Sovereignty.

"Many of the provisions of the Declaration have never been implemented," the statement says. "Since 1994, Belarus has evolved into an authoritarian state where the rights and liberties of Belarusians are violated, the people's will is neglected and the development of democratic civil society is held back in every possible way."

A modern European country is a democracy ruled by its citizens, not by a dictator, the statement says. Such countries are involved in European-wide projects, which are based on respect for human rights and democratic freedoms, Messrs. Milinkevich and Kastusyow note.

"The path toward true independence and democracy in Belarus is a path into united Europe," the statement says. "The independence of Belarus, democratization and the European-oriented development of our country are inter-connected values."