Updated at 01:25,03-03-2021

Minsk does not know how many people are viewed by EU as political prisoners


Minsk does not know exactly how many people imprisoned in Belarus are viewed by the European Union as political prisoners, Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey said in an interview with BelaPAN.

Mr. Makey said that the EU had spoken about 11, eight and nine political prisoners in Belarus at different points in the past. "The most recent figure that I heard at events in Trastsyanets as recently as yesterday is allegedly five people," he said, referring to a ceremony held at the site of a Nazi death camp near Minsk on June 8.

The minister attacked the EU`s "hypocritical" approach to giving the status of political prisoner. In particular, he said, armed pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine`s east are branded "terrorists," while government opponents in Belarus who were imprisoned for hurling firebombs at foreign embassies are described as political prisoners. When told by a BelaPAN correspondent that the young men to whom he was referring had not been called political prisoners, Mr. Makey said, "According to the latest information, two of them are on the list of those who are viewed by the EU as political prisoners."

The minister said that the Belarusian government had no plans to take part in "bargaining" with the EU about the possible release of its imprisoned political opponents. "Moreover, I`m sure that even if we released these people tomorrow we would immediately receive a new list of claims. And we would again be thinking what we should do to normalize our relations with the EU," he said.

According to Mr. Makey, if "appropriate internal state procedures are fulfilled," the imprisoned opposition activists may walk free. "But that depends on these people," he said, apparently referring to the possibility of appealing to Alyaksandr Lukashenka for a presidential pardon.

Mr. Makey described the 28-nation bloc`s travel bans and asset freezes imposed on scores of Belarusian government officials and other individuals as "unjustified sanctions." "We realize that these problems exist in our relations, we should solve these problems. But simultaneously we should actively make progress in spheres where we have a mutual interest in developing cooperation. And there are more than enough such spheres," he said.

Mr. Makey called for creating a positive atmosphere in relations with the EU even through some small steps that would "eventually lead to the settlement of these key concerns both for the EU and Belarus."