EU boycotts Lukashenko inauguration

The European Union has not sent representatives to the swearing in ceremony of president-elect Aleksander Lukashenko in Minsk today, in protest against what were widely regarded as rigged elections on 19 December.

The news follows Belarus's foreign minister threatening retaliatory action against Poland, which has slapped a travel ban on Lukashenko, members of his administration, judges and police involved in a crackdown on protestors on the night of 19 December and the arrest of 600.

Lukashenko himself said yesterday that "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 - toughest ones."

Lukashenko also repeated allegations that German and Poland were behind the protests against his election, aimed at "overthrowing the constitutional system."

Member of the parliamentary foreign affairs commission in Warsaw Robert Tyszkiewicz told the PAP news agency that Lukashenko's statement was "totally absurd [and that] the president of Belarus has sunk to level of textbook USSR propaganda which appeals to the worst traditions of Soviet propaganda. "

Head of the EU's foreign policy, Catherine Ashton, announced yesterday, the intention to enact travel bans on the Belarusian administration until it releases all the political prisoners arrested following the demonstration, where opposition candidates were beaten.

EU Foreign Ministers' are expected to confirm the entry ban on Belarusian officials at a conference in Brussels on 31 January. (pg)


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