Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Opposition politician Ivashkevich calls on EU to ban Belarusian petrochemical products until Syarhey Kavalenka's release

Opposition politician Viktar Ivashkevich has called on European Union member countries to stop buying Belarusian petrochemical products until the release of Syarhey Kavalenka, who is continuing his debilitating hunger strike.

"After meeting with the husband in Detention Center No. 1 on Valadarskaha Street in Minsk [on March 12]", Alena Kavalenka said, "It is painful to watch him starving to death and it is a shame that we are doing nothing", Mr. Ivashkevich says in his appeal.

"Of course, the dictator will not free anyone on his own will", he says. "It means that he should be forced into doing this. Only real economic sanctions, such as a ban that can be imposed by the governments of European Union member states on the purchase and transportation of Belarusian petrochemical products on their territories will prompt Lukashenka to release all political prisoners, including above all Syarhey Kavalenka".

Mr. Ivashkevich warns that Mr. Kavalenka can die and the European Union would also be to blame for his death.

He has called on other opposition politicians to join his campaign.

When reached by BelaPAN, Mr. Ivashkevich said that he would send his appeal directly to the embassies of EU member countries in Minsk.

He noted that he did not fear that the Belarusian authorities would impose a travel ban on him in retaliation for his appeal. "Syarhey Kavalenka is not afraid to die for his beliefs. If we fail to visit some Brussels, then hell with this. Brussels will do well without us. Besides, if someone wants to travel abroad, he will always find a way to do this".

In May 2010, the member of the Conservative Christian Party was sentenced to a suspended three-year prison sentence after he put a white-red-white flag on top of Vitsyebsk`s tallest Christmas tree in early January 2010.

On December 19, 2011, the 37-year-old Kavalenka was arrested at home on a charge of violating probation rules four times and placed in a detention center. He has been on hunger strike and force-fed since then.

On February 24, a district judge in Vitsyebsk sentenced him to two years and one month in a low security correctional institution on a charge of violating probation rules. Four days later, Mr. Kavalenka was transferred from the Vitsyebsk jail to a prison hospital in Minsk.

Mr. Kavalenka`s wife told BelaPAN after meeting with her husband on March 12 that he weighed 51 kilograms, having lost 32 kilograms since going on the hunger strike. "His body temperature is low, 35.2 degrees Celsius," the woman said. "His blood pressure is 60 over 90. But they refuse to transfer him to a civilian hospital."