Page last updated at 17:46 GMT, Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Ashton promises action over Belarus

EU High Representative Baroness Ashton has warned Belarus that the EU "will and must act" over the country's disputed presidential elections.

She made a statement to MEPs on 19 January 2011 on the December elections that saw the country's incumbent president Alexander Lukashenko re-elected for a fourth term, in a poll that international observers described as "deeply flawed".

Baroness Ashton has not ruled out the threat of sanctions to the Minsk government, including a travel ban and a freeze on the assets of certain Belarus officials.

However she said the EU would continue to engage with opposition activists and civil society organisations.

Security forces in the capital Minsk arrested and imprisoned more than 600 opposition activists in riots that took place after the election which saw President Lukashenko returned to power with a reported 80% of the vote.

At least seven presidential candidates were among those detained and some of them were reportedly also beaten by police.

Polish MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski criticised the lack of action by the EU in the past over Belarus, although Bulgarian MEP Kristian Vigenin said the recent protests in Minsk were a sign that the Belarussian public were ready to challenge the government.

MEPs will vote on a resolution at the daily voting session on 20 January 2011 that calls for sanctions to be imposed on President Lukashenko.

Read Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work here.

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