Minsk unfazed by sanctions

MINSK, Belarus, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Belarus is only emboldened by decisions by the United States and European Union to target its leaders with sanctions, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

The European and U.S. governments announced they were slapping Belarusian leaders with sanctions in response to "fraudulent" elections in December.

European Commission President Jerzy Buzek said in a statement that he welcomed the decision to put pressure on the leadership in Minsk.

"These targeted sanctions are applied only to those that have undermined core democratic values," he said.

Washington complained that the "disproportionate use of force," the detention of opposition candidates and general political suppression represented "major steps backward for the country."

Andrei Savinykh, a spokesman for the Belarusian foreign minister, was quoted by Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying the pressure would only strengthen his country's resolve.

"The EU council's decision forces Belarus to take proportional and adequate measures aiming to strengthen the Belarusian sovereignty, maintain stability and consolidate Belarusian society," he said.

President Alexander Lukashenko, dubbed the last European dictator by Washington, said during his Jan. 21 inaugural address that Belarus wasn't likely to fall anytime soon.

The post-election period was marred by widespread unrest that saw six presidential candidates and at least 600 anti-government protesters behind bars.


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