Lukashenko Warns Of Tough Retaliation Against Sanctions

(RTTNews) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has warned of tough retaliatory measures against a possible strengthening of sanctions on the Belarusian leadership by the European Union and the United States.

"There is one instruction for the government: if somebody tries to introduce economic or other sanctions against the country, we should respond immediately, prepare retaliatory measures, to as far as the toughest ones," Russian media quoted Lukashenko as saying at a conference over internal political issues in capital Minsk.

On Thursday, the European Union Parliament adopted a resolution calling for immediate sanctions against the leaders of Belarus, irked by the handling of the post-election protests in the former Soviet Republic.

The European lawmakers urged the European Council to impose an entry-ban and asset-freeze of senior government officials, members of the judiciary, and security agencies who played their role in rigging the elections in favor of Lukashenko, and post-poll persecution of the Opposition.

An EU Foreign Ministers' conference slated for January 31 in Brussels is expected to announce entry ban on the Belarusian leadership.

America supported the move and indicated to follow suit. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Washington was "consulting closely with our counterparts in the European Union" about taking punitive measures on Minsk.

Lukashenko, dubbed by the United States as "Europe's last dictator," was re-elected for a fourth term with a landslide majority in the December 19 elections.

Declaration of the results followed violent anti-government protests in the capital with thousands of Opposition supporters taking to the streets alleging electoral fraud behind Lukashenko's victory.

Police and KGB agents detained more than 600 protesters, including presidential contestants. Opposition candidates Vitaly Rymashevsky and Vladimir Neklyaev were injured when the police broke up a rally of their supporters. Neklyaev was arrested from his hospital bed.

KGB released Rymashevsky from pre-trial detention center on January 1 after the 35-year-old Opposition leader wrote a letter of explanation to the President pledging not to leave the country.

Belarusian authorities say that other ex-presidential candidates under custody are healthy, a claim refuted by their relatives.


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