Belarus opposition seeking support in Sweden
Members of the political opposition in Belarus have been visiting Sweden. Yesterday they met with, among others, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who wants the EU to impose sanctions on President Lukashenka and the Belarusian leadership.
This is a result of the violent aftermath of the elections in December.
There were ten candidates in the presidential elections in Belarus on the 19th of December. Sensing it was all going wrong, and that the elections were being rigged, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in the capital Minsk. The police gave a heavy-handed response, arresting hundreds of people and beating up several opposition candidates - including President Lukashenka's main challenger, Vladimir Neklyayev.
Today, the opposition counts 31 political prisoners. Four of them presidential candidates, now threatened with 15 years in prison. Another two candidates have been released but have been forced to sign a declaration that they will not leave the country, pending an investigation.
The pictures of peaceful demonstrators being beaten over the head by police, OSCE's unequivocal verdict that the elections had been flawed, even though the EU had promised billions of euros if it was done properly, and not the least President's Lukashenko's own post-election remark "There will be no more mindless democracy in this country," - suddenly it was impossible for the leaders of Europe to ignore what was happening in what more and more of them are now openly calling "Europe's last dictatorship".
The Belarus opposition leaders also received support from Stockholm. Foreign Minister Carl Bildt gave a strong message to his EU colleagues, and in the evening, EU minister Birgitta Ohlsson joined demonstrators at Norrmalmstorg in Stockholm.
"We need a much more firm and much more solid message from the EU that we are not accepting one more day of dictatorship in Belarus," she said, among others.