FM urges Belarus to free detained opposition figures

LONDON - Foreign Secretary William Hague on Wednesday expressed "extremely serious concerns" about the conduct of elections in Belarus and called for the immediate release of detained opposition figures.

Authorities in Minsk initially detained seven presidential candidates and arrested some 600 people over protests against President Alexander Lukashenko's re-election in polls Sunday, which were criticised by international observers.

"The UK government has extremely serious concerns about the conduct of the Belarus presidential election and the reports that the Belarussian authorities responded with excessive and apparently coordinated violence," Hague said.

He added: "I understand that the conditions in which detainees are being held are utterly unacceptable and designed to punish and intimidate.

"I am also extremely concerned at what appear to be forced recantations, broadcast on Belarussian state media, reminiscent of the show trials of a previous era.

"I therefore call on the Belarussian authorities to release immediately all those detained for politically motivated reasons as a matter of urgency."

Hague urged the Minsk authorities in particular to publish the whereabouts of opposition candidate and poet Vladimir Nekliayev, who he said had been forcibly removed from intensive care Monday and was still missing.


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