Lukashenko's ski trips to Switzerland threatened by EU travel ban

Switzerland may join European countries preparing a travel ban for a number of Belarusian top state officials, including President Alexander Lukashenko, EUobserver said.

"The ban is to extend to Switzerland, a member of the EU's passport-free Schengen area, where the Belarusian leader went for a ski trip in 2009," the news portal said.

The European Union's top diplomat, Catherine Aston, earlier informed Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov that a number of sanctions against the Belarusian leadership are being prepared over the recent post-election violence in Minsk.

"Poland has already drafted a list of 96 people, including Mr. Lukashenko and pro-Lukashenko 'propagandists,' which it wants the Union to put on a new travel ban list," EUobserver reported.

More than 600 people, including opposition leaders, were detained in the Belarusian capital during a police crackdown on demonstrators after the December 19 presidential vote that the opposition said had been rigged.

The United States and the European Union have called on Belarusian authorities to immediately release opposition activists who were arrested during the protests.

The final decision on the travel ban is to be taken at the meeting of EU foreign ministers on January 31. A consensus of all 27 EU member states is required for the measure.

Western nations, including the United States, introduced sanctions against the country and travel bans on Lukashenko and Belarusian officials following the 2006 presidential elections which they called fraudulent.

The ban was however suspended in 2008 in a move aimed at encouraging Belarus to move closer to the European Union.

In October 2010, the Council of the European Union prolonged the suspension of an entry ban against Lukashenko and 35 Belarusian government officials until October 31, 2011.

BRUSSELS, January 13 (RIA Novosti)


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