EU reinstates visa bans on Belarus elite, Lukashenko

BRUSSELS Jan 31 (Reuters) - The European Union reinstated a visa ban on Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and other officials on Monday in response to a violent crackdown on protest after a disputed December election, EU diplomats said.

Western governments have grown increasingly concerned over human rights violations in Belarus and have pressed Lukashenko to free scores of protesters held after the Dec. 19 vote, which the opposition and international monitors say was rigged.

The EU's foreign ministers agreed at a regular meeting to ban Lukashenko and about 150 other officials from travelling to the bloc. They also extended a list of people affected by an EU asset freeze, in place since 2006, to include those involved in the December crackdown, an EU diplomat said.

The EU imposed travel restrictions and asset freezes on Belarus in 2006, after another disputed ballot, but suspended the implementation of visa bans two years later to encourage reforms.


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