Belarus president boils over in attack on EU chief

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Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko Tuesday denounced the head of the EU commission as an "ass" and rounded on Ukraine's president in apparent fury at arrangements for the Chernobyl anniversary.

Lukashenko was notably absent from ceremonies at Chernobyl to mark the 25th anniversary of the nuclear disaster, even though his country was badly affected and his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts visited the power station.

Instead, Lukashenko made his own solo tour Tuesday of the region in Belarus worst affected by the disaster.

Asked by Belarussian media why he had not travelled to Ukraine to join Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych for the ceremonies at Chernobyl, he replied:

"Ask Yanukovych that question, why the Belarussian president is not present at the events. Ask them! Unfortunately the current Ukrainian leadership has an absolute nerve," he said.

Ukrainian media said that EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso had asked Kiev not to invite the authoritarian Belarussian leader to a conference in Kiev last week on the consequences of the disaster.

Ukraine complied with the EU demand, hoping he would still show up to the Chernobyl anniversary, but it appeared the Belarussian strongman had taken offence.

Turning on the Portuguese EU commission chief, Lukashenko added: "As for asses like Barroso, well there was once some Barroso in Portugal, they kicked him out and then sorted him out with work in the EU commission."

He also appeared to take aim at the solemn ceremonies at Chernobyl. "Maybe it's nice to go and lay wreaths but I need to see with my own eyes what needs to be done here."

Lukashenko has been ostracised by the European Union since his December 19 election victory, which Western monitors said was flawed and was also followed by an unprecedented crackdown on the opposition.

© 2011 AFP

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