EU FMs Ban Lukashenka, 157 Other Top Officals

BRUSSELS -- European Union foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels today, imposed asset freezes and visa bans on Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and 157 associates.

The move comes after a crackdown on protesters following Lukashenka's disputed reelection December 19. The crackdown included imprisoning hundreds of opposition activists, including presidential candidates.

On January 29, the latest group of detainees was released, including former candidate Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu and prominent journalist Irina Khalip, the wife of candidate Andrei Sannikau, who remains in jail. Those who were released remain under house arrest.

Today's asset freeze is likely to be replicated by United States. Ashton has been in regular contact with the U.S. State Department and there have been calls on both sides to coordinate efforts.

The EU imposed visa bans on Lukashenka and some 40 other officials after an election in 2006, but lifted the sanctions two years later in a bid to encourage reforms.

compiled from agency reports


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