BELARUS: Dance with Lukashenko keeps graduate on her toes

Minsk Pedagogical University graduate Tatyana Radkevich had to tread carefully when she was chosen to dance with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko at a graduation ball. Radkevich, who graduated from the Pedagogical University's faculty of national culture last month, was petrified she would tread on the president's toes.

"I was terrified I'd tread on his toes, that he wouldn't forgive me," she told the Belarusian edition of Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda. But she need not have worried: the president, she told the newspaper, behaved himself perfectly - and she did not tread on his toes.

In a country where intellectual activity, the media and freedom of expression are all under the strict control of President Lukashenko - and where studying the native language and culture have been largely driven underground - Radkevich's caution seems wise.

One leading institution, the European Humanities University, once based in Minsk, now operates from Lithuanian capital Vilnius after being forced to close by Lukashenko's regime.