OSCE offices in Belarus closed

by Paul Russell

The Minsk government has ended the activities of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Belarus on Friday after the organization criticized the results of the presidential election on December 19. The spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Andrei Savinykh, said there was no objective reason to maintain the OSCE mission in Minsk.

On Monday, December 20, OSCE observers had reported problems with the presidential election which was won for the fourth time, with nearly 80% of the votes by the authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. Tony Lloyd, head of the mission of OSCE observers the election had failed to give Belarus the new start she needed.

The organization also stressed that Belarus still had a long way to go before its elections could be deemed free, and condemned the harshness of police suppression of opposition protests.

Several hundred people were arrested Sunday evening after the intervention of riot police who dispersed a rally of several thousand opposition supporters in Independence Square in Minsk.Four presidential candidates were charged on Thursday with arranging riots during the protests which turned violent after the poll.

The United States and the European Union have called again for the immediate release of the demonstrators and the presidential candidates who were taken into custody after the elections.


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