Belarus police detains oposition journalist, activist

A journalist and an activist have been detained by police in Belarus following raids on several opposition organisations, their colleagues said on Wednesday.

Sergei Voznyak, editor of opposition newspaper Comrade, was taken into detention late on Tuesday after the paper's office was raided by police, the paper's deputy editor Dmitry Yenenko said.

The opposition United Civil Party, which has about 4,000 members, said their activist Andrei Dmitriev was also detained.

The Interior Ministry declined to comment.

On Tuesday, police raided offices of opposition organisations in Minsk, Brest and Grodno.

The government promised political liberalisation and economic reforms, prompting the European Union to soften its stance on the post-Soviet republic that has been in the hands of Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994.

In response to the EU lifting some sanctions and financial support, Belarus had said it would not suppress opposition.

But relations between the EU and Belarus deteriorated again this year after police stopped several opposition protests.

"I believe that the reaction of the European politicians should be harsh ... Through yesterday's actions Lukashenko chose the style of his future election campaign," Anatoly Lebedenko, the chairman of the United Civil Party told Reuters.

"It will be a campaign of threat and force," he added, referring to a presidential election that is due next year.

In May, Belarus sentenced an opposition activist to a jail term for the first time since an amnesty for political prisoners two years ago raised the prospect of improving ties with the West.



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