EU demands release of Belarussian opposition

Brussels - The European Union has demanded the release of a Belarussian opposition leader arrested at a rally to protest against last week's election victory of President Alexander Lukashenko.

"The EU presidency is appalled by the violence used against demonstrators by the Belarussian authorities," Austria, current holder of the rotating presidency, said in a statement. "It expresses concern about the arrest of demonstrators and members of the democratic opposition, including presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin, and demands their immediate release."

Kozulin and main opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich have been leading days of rallies in Belarus against what they say was election fraud in the poll that gave Lukashenko an overwhelming victory.

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Police broke up a rally on Friday and took away hundreds of protesters in trucks. Kozulin was pulled out of a car by police and taken away after a rally on Saturday.

'Appalled by the violence'

Demonstrators are demanding a re-run of the poll, which returned to power a president accused in the West of pursuing Soviet-style policies.

The European Union agreed on Friday to impose sanctions, including a visa ban, on several Belarus leaders, including Lukashenko, over the election it condemned as flawed. - Reuters