EU Extends Sanctions Against Belarus

Posted October 10th, 2011 at 6:30 am (UTC-5)
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Diplomats say the European Union extended sanctions against Belarus Monday to ramp up pressure on President Alexander Lukashenko to free political prisoners.

A meeting of EU foreign ministers Monday extended a visa ban and asset freeze against 192 individuals linked to the Belarus government and added 16 more officials to the list.

Late last month, EU human rights chief Thomas Hammarberg and Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski met with leaders of the Belarusian opposition and vowed continued support for their group.

The EU says political opponents in Belarus are being imprisoned without trial and “grave human rights abuses” occur. Sikorski noted that the situation worsened after the Minsk government cracked down on the opposition following the disputed December 2010 re-election of President Lukashenko.

Sikorski said there will be no chance for deeper relations or more economic support as long as the people of Belarus are persecuted.

President Lukashenko has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since 1994. He was proclaimed the winner in the December presidential vote, which observers said failed to meet international standards.

Belarus authorities arrested hundreds of protesters, journalists and opposition leaders during a mass post-election demonstration December 19.