EU to get tougher on Belarus

The European Union will toughen measures against Belarus officials responsible for a crackdown on opposition protesters in Minsk in December, EU foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, said on Wednesday.

More than 600 people, including presidential candidates, were detained in the Belarusian capital during a police crackdown on demonstrators after the December 19 presidential elections. International monitors called the polls "flawed."

Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron rod since 1994 and has been dubbed by the United States "Europe's last dictator" for his clampdown on opposition and dissent, gained a landslide victory in the polls with 79.67 percent of the vote.

During a meeting in Brussels with Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov, Ashton urged a halt to the persecution of opposition activists and the immediate release of those detained during the post-election disturbances in Minsk.

An EU diplomatic source said the new EU entry ban list could be expanded up to more than 100 officials.

European Parliament chairman Jerzy Buzek also proposed excluding Belarus from participation in international sports competitions, including the Olympic Games and the World Cup.

BRUSSELS, January 12 (RIA Novosti)


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