Activists detained amid raids at human rights NGOs in BelarusComments
Security services in Belarus have reportedly raided the offices of leading human rights organisations and detained several activists.
The NGO Viasna said both its headquarters in Minsk, and the homes of several of its members across the country, had been raided on Wednesday.
"Ales Bialiatski, the chairman of the Viasna Human Rights Centre cannot be reached," the group said in a statement.
Viasna said that "equipment, computers, and cell phones" were seized as part of the searches.
In Orsha, a town near the border with Russia, the authorities "took the editor of the regional website orsha.eu and activist Igor Kazmerchak somewhere," the NGO added.
Another human rights group, Lawtrend, and the Belarusian Association of Journalists also reported police raids.
Meanwhile, the director of the European Expertise and Communication Office said on Facebook that their offices had been "searched" on Wednesday.
Euronews has contacted the Belarusian Investigative Committee for a statement on the police raids.
The Viasna human rights centre, founded in 1996, has been monitoring the mass arrest of opposition activists throughout the recent demonstrations.
"We will not stop our human rights activities," the organisation said in a statement on Telegram.
"We strongly protest against the latest wave of repressions against members of the organisation and against the civil society of Belarus in general, and declare that we will not stop our human rights activities."
Protests in Belarus broke out in August 2020 after President Alexander Lukashenko's disputed re-election, which critics say was rigged in his favour.
Lukashenko's administration launched a crackdown, targetting protesters initially before spreading to opposition activists and other dissenters.
On Thursday, authorities blocked access to Nacha Niva, a leading online opposition media, before carrying out a series of raids on independent newspapers and regional media.
The searches came one day after Viktor Babaryko -- a leading Belarusian opposition figure -- was sentenced to 14 years in prison on corruption charges.
The EU has joined other western countries in imposing economic sanctions on Belarusian officials.
On Thursday, the bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called on Minsk to not "silence dissenting voices" and said it was considering new targeted sanctions.
"This new wave of repression is further evidence that the Lukashenko regime is conducting a systematic and well-orchestrated campaign with the ultimate aim of silencing all remaining dissenting voices and suppressing civic space in Belarus," Borrell in a statement.
The EU repeated calls for the "immediate release" of over 550 political prisoners, including the human rights defenders detained on Wednesday.
"The EU is ready to consider further restrictive measures, in line with its gradual approach," Borrell added.