EU High Representative Ashton meets with Belarusian delegation

BRUSSELS (BNO NEWS) - European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton on Wednesday met with a Belarusian delegation conformed by leading representatives of the Belarusian opposition and civil society.

Ashton, also Vice-President of the European Commission, discussed the arrests after the election with the delegation that included Eva Neklyaeva, daughter of arrested former presidential candidate Vladimir Neklyaev, and Irina Bognanova, sister of arrested former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov.

Ashton remarked the EU's solidarity and support to those detained on political grounds. After meeting the delegation, the EU High Representative talked with Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov.

Martynov was informed of the EU's condemnation of the violent response towards the protests that followed the elections. Ashton demanded the immediate release of those detained and an immediate end to the persecution of opposition, democratic forces and representatives of civil society.

On December 19, six opposition candidates were arrested after participating in a rally in protest of the controversial election results, which saw President Alexander Lukashenko getting a landslide victory to secure a fourth term in office.

According to official election results, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko won re-election with 79.7 percent of the vote. The number was released after all votes had been counted.

The electoral process was marred with inconsistencies, especially during the vote count in which international observers assessed almost half of the vote counts monitored as 'bad' or 'very bad'.

The delegation also included former presidential candidates in the 2006 presidential elections Aliaksandr Milinkevich and Aliaksandr Kazulin and the first head of state of independent Belarus, Stanislaw Shuskevich.

High Representative Ashton added that the European union will discuss appropriate measures against Belarus' response to the post-election events at the Foreign Affairs Council on January 31.

After the post-election protests, more than 630 people were detained, including four former presidential candidates who could face up to 15 years of imprisonment if convicted. The majority of the detainees have served administrative detention of 10 to 15 days.


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