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Lukashenka's key challengers refused registration for Belarus election

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Viktar Babaryka / Euroradio files

The Central Elections Commission (CEC) on 14 July refused registration of Viktar Babaryka and Valery Tsapkala as candidates in the presidential elections set to take place on 9 August.

During the registration meeting, CEC chairperson Lidziya Yarmoshyna read out from a document believed to be from the State Control Committee citing the undeclared illegal income in the amount of several hundred thousand US dollars that Babaryka allegedly received in the process of "illegal activity" when running "an organized criminal group." She summarized the information from the investigators regularly presented on the state-run TV channels. However, Babaryka is yet to face trial and be found guilty or not guilty by the court, as was pointed out by Babaryka's lawyer Maksim Znak. Yarmoshyna also said that Babaryka had used "illegal foreign assistance" through Belgazprombank and its managers.

"We trust the bodies conducting this investigation," CEC head said, adding that the ruling to refuse registration to Viktar Babaryka was unanimous.

The official reason for his non-registration is "the inconsistent income declaration and assistance from foreign states and organizations in the financing of the election campaign."

Babaryka had enough signatures for registration from supporters.

Viktar Babaryka is a former banker and ex-CEO of Belagazprombank, a Belarusian lender owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom and its banking arm Gazprombank. He was detained on 18 June, placed into a KGB pre-trial detention center, and charged under several articles in the Criminal Code.

Human rights defenders have recognized Babaryka as a political prisoner.

Valery Tsapkala was refused registration on the grounds that only 75 000 out of almost 160 000 signatures submitted to the CEC for his nomination were found to be valid. At least 100 000 signatures are required to register as a presidential candidate in Belarus.

The CEC also found violations in his wife's income declaration - she had not mentioned the securities that she owns.

The ruling to refuse registration was unanimous too.

Valery Tsapkala is a former aide to President Lukashenka, former Belarus Ambassador to the United States, and a former head of the High Tech Park in Minsk.

Today's decision of the Central Election Commission has knocked out two "alternative" politicians who have gathered the biggest number of signatures for their nomination. Babaryka and Tsapkala are new-wave politicians who were previously not associated with the opposition and have mobilized significant support in the change-minded Belarusian society.

Video streaming from CEC can be watched here.

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