EU to Boycott Belarus Presidential Inauguration

European ambassadors are boycotting Friday's inauguration of President Alexander Lukashenko in protest of his government's brutal crackdown on political opponents and human rights activists.

The boycott came a day after European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton signaled travel bans could be applied to Belarus officials until the government releases all political prisoners, and stops harassment of opposition members.

A defiant Mr. Lukashenko on Thursday threatened to take retaliatory measures if the EU imposed any sanctions. He also accused Germany and Poland of trying to oust him by supporting his political opponents.

Germany and Poland have rejected Mr. Lukashenko's claims.

Belarus' presidential elections on Dec. 19 were widely viewed in the West as fraudulent. Mass protests in Belarus against the vote were met with violent repression and widespread detentions.

Russia's state-run news agency Itar-Tass reports that the Russian ambassador will attend the inauguration ceremony.

Demonstrations against Mr. Lukashenko's government have stretched as far as New York. On Wednesday, the Public Theater and Amnesty International held a joint rally in defense of human rights, free speech and political prisoners in Belarus.


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