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14.03.2017 13:24 Politics, Belarus — EU

Head of EU Delegation to Belarus avoids criticizing Minsk over arrests of protesters

By Alyaksey Alyaksandraw, BelaPAN
Minsk, 14 March. The European Union's envoy to Belarus on Tuesday avoided criticizing the Belarusian authorities for apprehending dozens of people during recent peaceful street protests against Alyaksandr Lukashenka's April 2015 decree that imposed a so-called parasite tax on non-working people.
Asked by a BelaPAN correspondent to comment on the arrests, Andrea Wiktorin, head of the EU Delegation to Belarus, said that the diplomatic mission would continue paying close attention to the situation in the country.
The EU hopes that all sides will refrain from violence, Ms. Wiktorin stressed.
The diplomat also said that she had nothing to add to remarks made on March 13 by Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for the European External Action Service. The EU hopes that all those arrested will be released, she said.
The EU cooperates with Belarus in the political, economic and social spheres but adheres to certain values at the same time, said Ms. Wiktorin.
Ms. Kocijancic said that the "detention and sentencing of peaceful protesters, including leaders of opposition movements, is in contradiction with Belarus' declared policy of democratization." "The European Union is committed to a stable, democratic and prosperous future of Belarus, for the benefit of its people, and will continue its work with this objective firmly in mind. We call for an immediate release of the detained protesters," she said.
Street demonstrations against the "parasite" tax have been held in various cities around Belarus since February.
On March 9, Alyaksandr Lukashenka ordered Interior Minister Ihar Shunevich to take tough measures against the organizers of street protests against his decree.
“Ihar Anatolyevich [Shunevich], a perfect order should be established in the country. You know what I mean,” he said.
Authorities should learn to talk to protesters, but at the same time extremely severe penalties should be used against instigators, not ordinary protesters, those who have found themselves in a difficult life situation and want to draw authorities’ attention to them, Mr. Lukashenka said.
Opposition leaders Anatol Lyabedzka, Yury Hubarevich and Vital Rymashewski were violently arrested after a protest in Maladzyechna, Minsk region, on March 10. The three men were subsequently found guilty of participating in an unsanctioned rally and sentenced to 15 days in jail each.
Arrests followed protests in Pinsk, Babruysk, Brest, Orsha and Rahachow on March 11 and 12.
There were a total of 19 reporters and bloggers among the people who were arrested following the protests in the five cities.




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