Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) says the recent presidential elections in Belarus were not free and fair, echoing the conclusions of a meeting of EU leaders on Wednesday afternoon.
“The EU is following the situation closely. The elections in Belarus did not fulfill international or the EU criteria and were neither free nor fair. The European Council expressed its full solidarity with the people of Belarus to determine its own future” Marin told journalists in a telephone briefing.
Since the election earlier this month, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of towns and cities across Belarus in peaceful protests, accusing incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko of rigging the vote. Many workers, including those in state-run enterprises, have shown their solidarity by going on strike.
Thousands of people were initially detained by security forces loyal to Lukashenko, with widespread reports of torture and mistreatment.
“We condemn any violence against peaceful protesters, and demand the release of political prisoners” she Marin, who added that there should be new elections “which meet democratic standards”.
At Wednesday’s video conference meeting, EU leaders agreed to impose targeted sanctions against individuals in Belarus who used violence against protesters, with Marin stressing those sanctions do not target the country as a whole.
The Belarus government has already brought in replacement workers from Russia to fill the jobs of many striking staff at state-run enterprises, and there have been concerns about whether Russia could also send military help to its neighbour.
Marin tells News Now Finland that EU leaders “did not discuss” Russia’s role in the crisis at their meeting.
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