Updated at 16:42,06-12-2016

Some political prisoners may be released soon

Alyaksandr Lukashenka promised on April 5 that he would consider some imprisoned opposition politicians appeals for a presidential pardon "in the near future".

"There has been much talk about some political prisoners recently. We have no political articles in our Criminal Code", the governments news agency BelTA quoted him as saying at a conference that focused on foreign-policy matters.

Mr. Lukashenka agreed with "opposition media outlets" that putting pressure on him is useless. "But what they write next is wrong: that if he is under pressure to do something, he will do the opposite. It is utter nonsense. I have never proceeded from personal ambitions. I will act as I am required by the constitution and laws", he said.

He noted that opposition forces "must behave more decently while asking for something or even demanding [something]". "The more so if you demand or ask for something from the president. One must not walk here with sticks in ones hands and knock on the window", he said.

Mr. Lukashenka hit back at the families of his imprisoned political opponents for accusing him of failing to deliver on his promise to release the prisoners. "I warned that the matter of pardoning the so-called political prisoners depends, above all, on their appeal for a pardon. I said that in public at once. If you dont want to make such an appeal, no one will consider your release. Stay in prison", he was quoted as saying.

Mr. Lukashenka dismissed reports that some of his imprisoned foes had applied for his pardon under duress and said that an inquiry ordered by him had found that the people had appealed to him of their own accord. "I have been recently provided with information, including a video of them saying frankly and honestly that it was their own decision. Some of them, one or two, have not wanted to write [an appeal for a pardon]. OK, this is their choice. Let them be in prison", he said.

"As for those who have applied for a pardon, I will consider these matters in the near future. No one will reproach me for failing to make good on my obligations or promises. We will make decisions on certain people who have finally realized the harmfulness of their position and policy toward their own state", Mr. Lukashenka said.

At present there are 12 opposition politicians and civil society activists who are described by human rights groups as political prisoners. These include former presidential candidates Andrey Sannikaw and Mikalay Statkevich, and Mr. Sannikaws campaign aide, Dzmitry Bandarenka, all of whom were sent to prison over the December 19, 2010 post-election street protest. The list also includes Zmitser Dashkevich, leader of an opposition youth group called Malady Front who was arrested one day before the street protest, and Syarhey Kavalenka, who is said to be critically ill after refusing food for months since his arrest in December 2011.

At least two of them - Messrs. Sannikaw and Bandarenka - are known to have applied to Mr. Lukashenka for a pardon.