Saturday, March 24, 2012

Belarus: EU extends Belarus sanctions after Minsk bombers’ execution

PanARMENIAN.Net - Following the recent execution of two Minsk metro bombers European Union foreign ministers on Friday extended their sanctions on the Belarusian regime, RIA Novosti reported.

The EU ministers added 29 firms and 12 individuals to some 230 Belarusians already blacklisted in a bid to put more pressure on President Alexander Lukashenko. The list includes those "benefiting from and supporting the regime" as well as people responsible for "repression" of the opposition, the foreign ministers said in a statement.

"Our decision today comes in response to the negative developments we have seen in Belarus," said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. "Instead of increasing repression, Belarus must release and rehabilitate all political prisoners and roll back its repressive policies."

The EU also called on Lukashenko to engage in a dialogue with the opposition.

In response, Minsk on Friday, March 23 said it sees no need for European diplomats to return to Belarus.

“In the current circumstances, Belarus sees no need for the presence of the recalled ambassadors of those countries that voted for this [expansion of sanctions],” Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Savinykh said in a statement.

Belarus citizens Vladislav Kovalyov and Dmitry Konovalov were executed by shooting at an unspecified time and location. State Belarusian television reported their deaths late on Saturday night. The men were accused of planting a bomb in the capital's Oktyabrskaya metro station during rush hour, causing a blast that killed 15 people and wounded 300 others. Both were convicted in November, on evidence that their defense lawyers described as inconclusive.

Lukashenko has refused to pardon the men despite calls by Western governments and rights groups not to carry out the death sentence. Belarus is the only nation in Europe still using capital punishment.