Belarus foreign minister rejects human rights criticism

Stubb: "We have differing views on events after the elections"

Belarus foreign minister rejects human rights criticism

Sergei Martynov, Foreign Minister of Belarus, popped into Helsinki for a quick visit on Tuesday to give Finland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb (Nat. Coalition Party) his government's side of the story concerning the presidential elections in his country in December, and especially the events that followed the vote.

Stubb says that the meeting made it clear that Belarus has a very different view of the riots that took place on the day of the elections, and the events leading up to them than Finland and the rest of the EU have. Belarus has come under sharp criticism in the West for the violent suppression of opposition demonstrations, as well as the arrests of hundreds of opposition supporters.

Before moving on to Brussels, Martynov accused the media, and "certain political figures" of spreading false information about the events in Belarus.

"I emphasised to Foreign minister Stubb that the demonstrations that took place after the elections had nothing to do with the elections themselves. The demonstrations on election day went peacefully for at least three hours until they turned violent, and demonstrators started breaking the doors and windows of the Prime Minister's official residence", Martynov said on Tuesday evening at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport.

Martynov says that police were forced to resort to "moderate force" after demonstrators started using brute force.

"The police did not use rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons, or dogs, as has been the case in many European capitals in recent months." According to many eyewitnesses, the police had acted very heavy-handedly in breaking up a demonstration in the capital Minsk on the evening of the day of the elections, on December 19th.

Martynov also denied claims that Belarus officials had threatened to take the three-year-old son of opposition presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov into foster care.

"You have incorrect information about this as well. Respected child welfare bodies had offered to take the child into care after relatives had refused to do so. However, nothing happened, and the child is with his grandparents. That's all".

Stubb says that he made three requests to Martynov: that opposition leaders be immediately released, that possible court processes should be transparent and in accordance with the rule of law, and that an international investigation should be implemented on the elections, and especially the events that followed them.

"I indicated that without these concrete actions, it would be hard for Belarus to get the international community, to say nothing of the European Union, onto its side."


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