Lukashenko defiant on threatened EU travel ban

Minsk/Kiev - Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko on Thursday dismissed a threatened travel ban to the European Union, saying he would not be intimidated by international sanctions.

'You have frightened me with sanctions, by taking away visas - well the Lord take you!' Lukashenko said. 'I have lived with this visa limit for 10 years. So far, I'm alive and well.'

Lukashenko's defiant comments to the Belapan news agency come days before European Union foreign ministers are to decide on possible sanctions against Belarus.

One measure under consideration is reimposing a ban on travel to the European Union by Lukashenko and senior members of the Belarusian government.

Belarusian authorities used force to break up anti-government demonstrations after the December vote. They have arrested close to 1,000 people in a post-election crackdown against its opponents.

Lukashenko said Thursday his government 'remained open to compromise' with developed nations as long as they 'are honest about their intentions.'

In recent weeks, Belarus' state-controlled media have widely reported that western intelligence agencies, led by Poland and Germany, are financing the country's political opposition and that they were behind the December anti-government demonstrations.

'We have evidence that (western intelligence agencies) were behind the protests, and we will make that evidence public,' Lukashenko said. 'It was an attempt to carry out a coup against the legal government of the country, nothing more and nothing less.'

Western officials have described as baseless allegations of behind-the-scenes efforts to unseat Lukashenko.

Lukashenko has ruled Belarus practically unchallenged since he took over the former Soviet republic's government in a 1996 constitutional coup. His regime is Europe's most repressive.

Despite this, he enjoys substantial public support because of the former Soviet republic's relative political stability, full employment and free health care.


Partners: Social Network