Belarus releases opposition activist from prison

Minsk - The authoritarian regime in Belarus on Saturday released former presidential candidate Vladimir Neklayev from prison, his lawyer told media in the capital Minsk.

The release, after six weeks, followed weeks of pressure from EU states.

Journalist Irina Chalip of the Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta, who was also arrested on December 19, the day of disputed presidential elections, was also released. However, the pair remain under house arrest.

Belarusian authorities used force to break up anti-government demonstrations after the December vote. They have arrested close to 1,000 people in a post-election crackdown against the regime's opponents.

The European Union and the United States had demanded that President Aleksander Lukashenko, often described as 'Europe's last dictator,' release all anti-government activists.

EU foreign ministers are to meet in Brussels on Monday to decide on possible sanctions against Belarus, including a possible travel ban.


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