EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton has condemned the use of violence following the presidential elections in Belarus on 19 January. In a statement issued in Brussels she denounced "the beating and detention of several opposition leaders including a number of presidential candidates", and called on the authorities to immediately release those arrested.
This type of behaviour is unacceptable for the international community, said President of the European Parliament (EP) Jerzy Buzek in a separate statement after receiving reports that opposition presidential candidate Vladimir Neklyaev had been beaten up on his way to a protest rally in Minsk.
"This cowardly attack on a defenceless candidate for President of Belarus is outrageous and disgraceful. I am shocked as I have learned from the testimonies of witnesses as reported by the media, that Mr Vladimir Neklyaev was beaten up by the police force," said the EP President.
Jerzy Buzek urged Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko "to immediately halt all police forces from executing such actions, and to punish all those involved".
"This incident sheds the worst possible light on the presidential elections held today in Belarus. The citizens of Belarus deserve a democratic country. I express my profound respect for all those who struggle in a peaceful manner for this to come true, like Mr Neklyaev. I wish him a speedy recovery to full health," said Buzek.
The use of force against candidates and activists in Belarus was also condemned by Chairman of the European Parliament's EPP Group Joseph Daul and MEP Jacek Protasiewicz. A press release from the EPP Group said: "The use of the brutal force as well as the detentions of the opposition activists, including independent candidates, (journalists, human rights defenders and civic activists) are not the right methods of solving the political conflicts therefore cannot be accepted by democratic public opinion. The same condemnation applies to breaches to the freedom of the media, especially by blocking the citizens' access to the internet on the election day."
Commenting on the results of the elections, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said she had taken note of the preliminary results"as announced by the authorities," adding "we are now waiting for the OSCE/ODIHR preliminary report to assess the conduct of the elections".
Ashton regretted that the events in the Belarusian capital had not reflected "the relative progress noted so far in the pre-election period". (ENPI Info Centre)