EU monitors denied entry to Belarus

MINSK, Belarus, March 15 (UPI) -- Belarus has refused to grant visas to a delegation of European Union MPs, leading members to cancel a planned visit.

Another group of monitors from the European security organization, the OSCE, was also denied entry to the country, reports the BBC.

The head of the EU contingent said he feared the Belarus government, led by President Alexander Lukashenko, would crack down hard against protesters.

Lukashenko seeks to secure his third term in office in Sunday's upcoming election. Early voting began Tuesday, a format opposition groups say will enable the president to rig the ballot.

Members of the EU group were told that any further attempt to enter Belarussian territory would be considered a provocation and would be stopped at the border.

The would-be observers will now monitor the election from Brussels and Warsaw and insist they will not incite people to protest.

Belarus been the scorn of international human rights groups who say it continues to oppress political opposition and free speech.