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#Belarus – EU ups sanctions, while Tsikhanouskaya issues an ultimatum to Lukashenka

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EU foreign ministers met to discuss the continued deterioration in the situation in Belarus (12 October). The EU’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, said the EU was sending a clear message after the attacks on peaceful protesters on Sunday that ‘business as usual’ was no longer possible in EU-Belarus relations. The EU’s High Representative briefed ministers on a conversation he had with the Belarus Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vladimir Makei, where he underlined the EU’s support for democratic freedoms and the rights of Belarusian citizens to peacefully protest. He also stressed during the call, that the EU wanted to see an inclusive national dialogue, as well as the acceptance of the OSCE as a mediator. Ministers gave their political green light to start preparing the next sanctions package, which will include the Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko and members of his family. Today, one of the opposition leaders, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya issued an ultimatum to Lukashenka: ‘Release political prisoners, end violence, resign by October 25, or the whole nation will strike, peacefully, on October 26 – blocked roads, no factory work, boycott of state shops.” She added, “’If you’re waiting for my order, this is it.” Yesterday, the International Relations Advisor to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Franak Viacorka, reporter via Twitter that the Belarus Ministry of the Interior said: “The security forces won’t leave the streets and will use lethal weapons if necessary. The protests, which shifted mainly to Minsk, became organized and extremely radical.” EU Reporter asked the EU’s External Action Service spokesperson, Peter Stano, about this new threat. He said that with more bad behaviour the EU will continue to add to the sanctions list and restrictive measures, but will also reach out to call for an inclusive national dialogue.

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