The man America called “the last dictator in Europe” – the President of Belarus – has been invited to a European Union summit on partnership with ex-Soviet states in Prague. Alexander Lukashenko has long been shunned in the west, and until last year was the subject of an EU travel ban.
Western governments and human rights campaigners say that opposition is stifled in Belarus, and a free media is virtually non-existent. The invitation came from Karel Schwarzenberg, the foreign minister of the Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency.
The Czech president Vaclav Klaus said he was “surprised” by the move, adding that he would not shake Lukashenko’s hand, nor invite him to the presidential palace.