U.S., EU Reviewing Ties With Belarus After Vote

The United States and the European Union say they are reviewing their relations with Belarus after police in Minsk cracked down on mass opposition protests against the weekend vote that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka says he won in a landslide.

In their joint statement, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton also called on Belarusian authorities to release the more than 600 demonstrators arrested during the December 19 protest.

They say that "the elections and their aftermath represent an unfortunate step backwards in the development of democratic governance and respect for human rights in Belarus," adding in a line reminiscent of a statement by the head of an OSCE/ODIHR short-term observer mission for the vote, "The people of Belarus deserve better."

Five former presidential candidates detained during the postelection protests, along with 14 other opposition activists, are facing possible charges of "organizing mass disorder," according to RFE/RL's Belarus Service, which has published a complete list of the 19 suspects.

All of the suspects are in the custody of the country's notorious KGB and investigations are continuing, according to Minsk police.

They could reportedly face up to 15 years in prison.

The detained candidates include poet Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu, who was beaten unconscious during the protest and subsequently snatched from his hospital bed by men in plainclothes. Lawyers have reportedly been denied access to Neklyaeu.


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