PACE calls on Europe to reject Belarus presidential vote

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has called on the 47 CE member states to reject the results of the December 19 presidential election in Belarus, PACE said in a resolution.

The European Union is considering new sanctions against Belarusian leaders following a brutal clampdown on opposition leaders and protesters. More than 600 people were arrested - many after being beaten - when they took to the streets to protest the re-election of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

PACE also called on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release all opposition candidates and their supporters, adding that it confirmed its earlier decision to suspend any top and high-level contacts with Belarus.

The European Parliament last week adopted a resolution calling for immediate sanctions including a travel ban and asset freeze for Lukashenko, who has ruled the country with an iron rod since 1994, and some 100 other officials.

Lukashenko, once dubbed by the United States "Europe's last dictator," said he is not afraid of sanctions.

"You are intimidating me with sanctions and visa restrictions, but I have been living under a visa restriction for decades," he said.

"There's no need to scare us," Lukashenko said. "You don't like it that the victory was won by Lukashenko and not henchmen supported by Western special services."

The foreign ministers of the EU's 27 states are expected to reach a final decision on the sanctions issue when they hold their first meeting of the year on January 31 in Brussels.

Under the European Parliament's resolution, senior government officials and members of the judiciary and security agencies responsible for rigging the elections and persecuting the opposition would face a ban on visas and a freeze on bank accounts held on EU territory.

Lukashenko and 40 other officials were initially banned from entering the EU in 2006, but restrictions were suspended two years later amid signs of a tentative political thaw in Belarus.

STRASBOURG, January 27 (RIA Novosti)


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