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German Politicians Consider Sanctions Against Belarus

DW staff (als)March 21, 2006

German politicians are discussing the possibility of sanctioning Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's regime after fraudulent elections and the regime's intimidation of opposition members.

Supporters of opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich in Minsk on TuesdayImage: dpa

"Restricting entry visas is possible if it is done selectively and aims to affect the people surrounding Lukashenko," SPD foreign affairs spokesperson Gert Weisskirchen told the Berliner Zeitung.

"The European Union cannot accept these perverted, Soviet-style elections," Eckart von Klaeden of the CDU said.

Marie-Luise Beck, Green party politician and election observer from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), told NDR radio that in the run-up to the elections, "every type of democratic election process was completely abandoned."

The United States has also said it would work with the European Union in taking action against those Belarus officials responsible for election fraud and human rights abuses. White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said travel restrictions and targeted financial sanctions, such as freezing foreign accounts of particular individuals, could be possibilities.

Lukashenko opponents detained

Meanwhile, four aides to Belarus' main opposition presidential candidate, Alexander Milinkevich, were detained on Tuesday close to a square in central Minsk where protesters had spent the night.

"Alexander Dobrovolsky, Anatoly Lebedko, Alexei Yanukiyevich and Valentina Polevikova were arrested," Pavel Mazheika, a spokesman for Milinkevich, told the AFP news agency.

Weißrussische Opposition erkennt Wahlergebnis nicht an
Milinkevich supporters are not giving up easilyImage: AP

He added that "several dozen" other people who had been protesting against the landslide re-election victory of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko had also been detained overnight.

Lebedko is head of the United Civil Party (UCP), a liberal group that chose Milinkevich to represent the United Democratic Forces Coalition against Lukashenko in Sunday's controversial presidential vote.

Polevikova and Dobrovolsky are senior UCP officials and Yanukiyevich is a member of another opposition group, the Belarussian Popular Front.

Polevikova, who was later released, told the AFP news agency, that she was with Lebedko and Dobrovolsky when they were arrested. She said she had been prevented from re-entering Oktyabrskaya Square, where around 300 mostly young people rallied in freezing temperatures and in defiance of a government ban.

"We came back to the square but some police officers in plain clothes arrived," Polevikova said, adding she had been forcibly taken home by the officers. "They took the men and put them in a minibus and they told the women to stay at home and bring up children."

There was no information on the whereabouts of the other three activists.

Lebedko had been due to attend a hearing Tuesday for "insults" uttered during a brief detention on March 15 in the run-up to the election.

"We haven't received any detainees from Oktyabrskaya Square," an official at Minsk's central police station told the AFP news agency. "Look for them somewhere else."

Opposition leader wants an "orange revolution"

Lukashenko won Sunday's election with a resounding 82.6 percent of the vote, according to preliminary official results. Milinkevich was credited with just six percent in the ballot, which was condemned Monday by the leading Western election-monitoring body as neither free nor fair.

Milinkevich has declared the election invalid and hopes to lead a peaceful protest movement modeled on the "orange revolution" that occured in 2004 in neighboring Ukraine.

The United States and the European Union have denounced the authorities' crackdown on opposition activists, several of whom were jailed for up to two weeks on various charges during the election campaign.