Minsk
March 16, 1997

Reported by official Belarusian TV:

US citizen Peter George Byrne, executive director of the Belarusian Soros Foundation, was refused entry into the Republic of Belarus by "competent" bodies, in accordance with Article 20, Paragraph 3 of the Belarusian law governing the legal situation of foreign citizens and persons without citizenship in the Republic of Belarus.

The grounds for this decision were Mr. Byrneís activities, which were deemed incompatible with his status in the country, that of a foreign citizen. This has been confirmed by Mr. Byrneís repeated violations of the legislation of the host country. This includes the fact that he, a representative of a non-political non-governmental organisation, personally took part in illegal mass meetings held in Minsk. This can only be construed as interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.

The measures implemented regarding US citizen Mr. Byrne should not be considered as an act intended to hinder the (sic) Soros Foundation Open Society Instituteís and Belarusian Soros Foundationís activities in the Republic of Belarus, for they are non-governmental organisations which provide humanitarian aid for our country.

It is known that Peter Byrne was a "personnel philanthropist" and, unlike the general practice inside the Soros Foundation, was one of the few foreigners holding an executive director position in a foreign representation of the Foundation. On the whole, Mr. Byrne paid no attention to Belarusian laws.

From March 1995 until December 1996, he was resident in Belarus without registering, a required procedure for foreign nationals. This did not prevent him from attending almost all the illegal mass events organized by the opposition, both during the period when the old Constitution was in force and following the adoption of the new version. Perhaps his presence at all these rallies prevented Peter Byrne from registering, which is really a mere formality, but in general Peter was linking his future to Belarus. It is said that among friends he regularly dreamed of working in the State Department.

Peter felt that in order to do so, all he had to do was force the Belarusian authorities to expel him from the country for his conduct and activities aimed at fighting totalitarianism. Peterís dream came true, but not exactly the way he wanted it. He left on his own, but they wouldnít let him back in again.

All that remains is for us to wish him luck in speedily finding a job with the State Department. Obviously, Peterís Belarusian friends will miss him, as well as his own and other peopleís money which he distributed completely of his own free will.

We may continue to hope that the management of the Soros Foundation will appoint a new representative from among those Belarusian citizens who were in Peterís favour. These include extremely worthy people and a list will soon be published. Then it will be possible to elect either the most honest person out of them (the one who gained less than the others), or the "poorest" (the one who was awarded the fattest grant).

We are also eagerly awaiting increased financial assistance for Belarus from the Soros Foundation, since we also believe in the open society.

The majority of the Foundationís employees truly wish to help our youthful Belarusian democracy. It is just a pity that the sharpest ones are attempting to buy it out in advance.

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