Belarus EU sanction renewal looms

The renewed souring of relations between Belarus means no more visits to Lithuania for President Alexander Lukashenko like last September's. European Union diplomats say the bloc will reinstate a visa ban on Lukashenko in response to a crackdown on the opposition in Belarus after December's presidential vote.

The bloc imposed sanctions on Belarus after a disputed ballot several years ago but then suspended them to encourage democratic reforms. EU governments have grown increasingly concerned over human rights violations in Belarus that included the detention of opposition leaders and journalists.

Senior EU diplomats are due to study expert opinion again next week. Renewed sanctions would need ministers' approval.

Current OSCE president Lithuania has urged Belarus to allow the reopening of the Minsk mission; its monitors had said the election that handed Lukashenko a fourth term in office was flawed.


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