Belarus bars opponents’ EU meeting
MINSKBelarus police yesterday ejected three opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko from a train as they headed to a meeting with EU officials in Brussels in defiance of a travel ban, one of the men said.
The three were forcibly removed from the Minsk to Moscow train just before the Belarussian border and taken to a local police station, the head of the United Civil Party Anatoly Lebedko told Agence France-Presse. Political activist Alexander Otroshchenkov and the leader of the Fair World party Sergei Kalyakin were detained alongside Lebedko, the activist said. They were presented with minor charges of petty hooliganism.
The three had been travelling via Moscow to a meeting which was planned for today in Brussels where the European Union hopes to launch a dialogue with civil society in Belarus and the opposition to the almost 18-year rule of Lukashenko. Kalyakin and Lebedko are believed to be on a black list of opposition figures banned from leaving the country that Belarus has drawn up in response to an EU travel ban on members of Lukashenko’s regime.
Lukashenko has himself confirmed the existence of the list. It appears the activists were trying to circumvent the travel ban by entering Russia on the train, which usually does not have border checks due to the Union State which Belarus and Russia still maintain. Lukashenko launched a massive crackdown on the opposition after his victory in December 2010 presidential elections.