Minsk Says EU 'Escalating Tensions'
February 29, 2012
MINSK -- Belarus has accused the European Union of "escalating tensions" with Minsk by recalling ambassadors to the East European country from the 27 EU member states.
The EU announced the move after the Belarusian government retaliated for new EU sanctions by suggesting that the Polish ambassador and the EU envoy to Belarus leave the country.
Belarus's Foreign Ministry said on February 29 that the decision announced late on February 28 by EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton "is a path to a dead end."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Savinykh also warned that "scare tactics" would not work against Belarus.
Belarus has also recalled its own ambassadors to Poland and the EU.
On February 28, the EU increased by 21 the number of individuals connected with the Belarusian regime of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka who face EU sanctions, in response to continuing repressive moves against the Belarus political opposition.
More than 200 Belarusian officials already face a travel ban and an assets freeze in the EU because of alleged human rights violations in Belarus.
Putin: Relations With Russia Not Affected
On February 29, Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin maintained that new EU sanctions against Minsk would not hamper efforts to ensure closer ties between Russia and Belarus.
"We regret [the EU sanctions]," he said at an campaign rally in Moscow. "First of all, I hope that sooner or later there will be a normalization in EU-Belarus relations, but [the current sanctions] will not affect our integration process."
In November 2011, Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan signed an agreement aimed at closer integration, including the creation of a Eurasian Economic Union.
Belarus resumed moves toward closer integration with Russia after the EU imposed new sanctions on Minsk in the aftermath of the December 2010 presidential election, which Lukashenka won amid allegations of vote fraud.
More than 700 people, including seven opposition presidential candidates, were arrested during and after the ensuing mass protests.
Lukashenka has ruled Belarus since 1994 with Soviet-style authoritarianism.
With AFP reporting
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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