EU may review sanctions on Russian ally Belarus

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union said on Tuesday it could review sanctions against Russian ally Belarus after it released the last two prisoners said by the West to have been held because of their political beliefs.

"This latest development could offer ... the possibility of a review of the restrictive measures which it (the EU) has adopted against Belarus," the EU said in a statement.

The measures include a travel ban on President Alexander Lukashenko and other top Belarusian officials.

Belarus, a key transit route for Russian oil and gas to Europe, said last week it had freed Sergei Parsyukevich and Andrei Kim, two businessmen who had been in jail in connection with protests against Lukashenko's policies.

The EU and Washington imposed the travel bans after accusing Lukashenko of rigging his 2006 re-election, as well as shutting down independent media and jailing opponents.

But Brussels earlier this year started cautiously praising Minsk for taking steps to release prisoners, and a senior U.S. diplomat flew into Minsk to discuss improving ties with Washington after Parsyukevich and Kim were freed.

Such moves come amid mounting tension between the West and Moscow. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday recognised two rebel regions of Georgia as independent states after a brief war over South Ossetia earlier this month.

Belarus, like other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries, remained quiet for days after fighting started in Georgia and only voiced open support for Russia after Moscow complained about its silence.

(Reporting by Mark John; editing by Meg Clothier)



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