Scenes that have provoked a strong reaction from the EU… Brussels has announced its imposing sanctions on leaders in Belarus over what it regards as a flawed presidential election.
Opposition supporters who had been staging a continuous protest in Minsk since Sunday’s vote were forced out of the main square by security forces overnight. The EU’s punitive measures involve mainly visa bans on Belarus leaders, including President Alexander Lukashenko. But it is thought asset freezes against individuals are under consideration.
Austria’s Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said: “The European Council has decided to take restrictive measures against those reponsible for the violations of international electoral standards including President Lukashenko”. But the EU has not gone as far as economic sanctions against the former Soviet Repoublic.
Opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich welcomed the bloc’s action. “We support sanctions which have been introduced by the EU,” he said. “These are concrete sanctions against the violators of laws.” Several hundred people are believed to have been arrested.
Crowds of relatives gathered outside a detention centre as their loved-ones were driven away for trial in outlying districts. Despite the crackdown opposition leaders say they are pushing ahead with plans for another big rally tomorrow. Lukashenko, who enjoys widespread support beyond the capital, denies there was ballot-rigging and accuses his rivals of trying to stir-up a revolution.