Belarus leader warns business against helping 'fifth column'

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Tuesday delivered a stern warning to businessmen to refrain from financing the anti-regime opposition which he calls "a fifth column."

"If someone from business moves to finance 'a fifth column' or negatively affects society in some other way then I will consider them involved in a political struggle, a fight against the state," Lukashenko told businesspeople and officials in a meeting.

"And there (in politics) exist different rules, and such businessmen should not take offence then," Lukashenko was quoted as saying by his office.

Lukashenko and his security forces are enforcing an unprecedented crackdown on the opposition following the president's disputed victory in December 2010 presidential elections.

Dozens of opposition politicians and activists have been jailed, and severe restrictions have been imposed on rallies in Belarus.

Dubbed by the West "Europe's last dictator," Lukashenko has been in power since 1994.

By law, companies are not allowed to finance political parties, and voluntary contributions from individuals including entrepreneurs are one of the few legal sources of financing for parties in Belarus.