WORLD NEWS

Belarus authorities release opposition activist

Apr 15, 2012, 4:20 PM

Associated Press

MINSK, Belarus (AP) – Belarus released a prominent opposition activist from prison Sunday, a move that suggested the authoritarian government is responding to pressure from Western sanctions aimed at curtailing its repression of dissent.

Dmitry Bondarenko’s wife, Olga, said he had phoned her in the morning to say he’d been freed. Bondarenko had helped run the election campaign of former opposition presidential candidate, Andrei Sannikov, who also was freed over the weekend.

Both men were arrested along with about 700 others in December 2010 after police broke up a massive protest rally hours after voting ended in a presidential election that saw incumbent strongman Alexander Lukashenko win a new term. The demonstrators had been protesting alleged vote fraud. Western countries and monitors have called the vote deeply flawed.

Sannikov was sentenced to five years in prison and Bondarenko received a two-year sentence on charges of staging mass riots.

Their release followed a series of new U.S. and European Union sanctions in recent months aimed at convincing Lukashenko to end repression of the opposition and to free political prisoners in the country of 10 million. As part of the pressure, the EU also recently recalled its ambassadors from Belarus.

Lukashenko _ dubbed Europe’s last dictator by critics _ has been in office since 1994, relentlessly stifling dissent and independent media while preserving a quasi-Soviet economy with about 80 percent of industry in state hands.

Some observers believe that by releasing opposition activists, he is seeking to mend ties with the West in order to build more room to maneuver in relations with his main sponsor and ally, Russia. Lukashenko depends on Moscow for subsidies, but has accused the Kremlin in the past of angling to erode his nation’s sovereignty and grab its economic assets.

“Lukashenko is sending a clear signal to the West about his desire to improve ties,” said Alexander Klaskovsky, an independent Minsk-based political analyst. “Minsk is shifting back to the past policy of bargaining and balancing between the West and the Kremlin.”

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton welcomed the release of Sannikov and Bondarenko, hailing them as “prominent symbols for the tireless work and commitment of many for a democratic and European Belarus.”

“I call on the authorities of Belarus to release unconditionally now also all other remaining political prisoners and to remove all restrictions on the enjoyment of their civil and political rights,” Ashton said in Sunday’s statement. “This would certainly contribute to possibilities for moving towards improved relations between the EU and Belarus.”

Belarusian rights activists say 10 opposition activists, including ex-presidential candidate Nikolai Statkevich are still in prison on political charges.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

World News

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, ...

Associated Press

Israeli Cabinet approves cease-fire with Hamas; deal includes release of 50 hostages

Israel’s Cabinet on Wednesday approved a cease-fire deal with the Hamas militant group that would bring a temporary halt to a devastating war.

6 days ago

Palestinians leave their homes following Israeli bombardment on Gaza City, Monday, Oct. 30, 2023. (...

Associated Press

Israeli airstrikes crush apartments in Gaza refugee camp, as ground troops battle Hamas militants

A flurry of Israeli airstrikes Tuesday on a refugee camp near Gaza City leveled apartment buildings, leaving craters where they once stood.

27 days ago

Moroccan boys, Rayan and Ali walk amidst the rubble of their home which was damaged by the earthqua...

Associated Press

Powerful quake in Morocco kills more than 2,000 people and damages historic buildings in Marrakech

A powerful earthquake has struck Morocco, toppling buildings in villages and cities not built to withstand such force.

3 months ago

State Farm Stadium Gold Cup soccer arrests 2023...

Serena O'Sullivan

Police arrest five people after State Farm Stadium brawl on Thursday

Two people were arrested for a State Farm Stadium brawl after Thursday's soccer matches between Qatar and Honduras plus Mexico and Haiti.

5 months ago

Members of the Wagner Group military company load their tank onto a truck on a street. (AP Photo)...

Associated Press

Russia says Wagner Group’s leader will move to Belarus after his rebellious march challenged Putin

Russian leaders say the Wagner Group leader who staged a short-lived rebellion will move to Belarus and not face prosecution.

5 months ago

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Sponsored Content by Boys and Girls Club of the Valley

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Sponsored Articles

Follow @KTAR923...

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Follow @KTAR923...

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

...

Desert Institute for Spine Care

Desert Institute for Spine Care (DISC) wants to help Valley residents address back, neck issues through awake spine surgery

As the weather begins to change, those with back issues can no longer rely on the dry heat to aid their backs. That's where DISC comes in.

Belarus authorities release opposition activist