By Toby Vogel
Brutal crackdown against opposition figures after Lukashenka "re-elected" president .
Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, has condemned a violent crackdown by the authorities in Belarus against opposition politicians. She called for the release of candidates who were detained in the wake of yesterday's presidential election. Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the autrocratic incumbent, won the election with close to 80% of the vote, according to official figures.
One candidate, Vladimir Neklyayev, was so badly beaten by security forces that he had to have medical treatment. But, according to his wife, plainclothes officers then dragged him from his hospital bed just hours after he was admitted. Several other opposition figures have also been arrested.
A spokesperson said that Ashton "condemns the use of violence, in particular the beating and detention of several opposition leaders including a number of presidential candidates". Ashton called on the authorities "to immediately release those arrested".
There were eight challengers to Lukashenka, who has been in power since 1994, but none won more than 3% of the vote, according to the official count.
Opposition websites were take offline and offices of human rights groups and elections observers raided.