Foreign Minister says he supports sanctions against Lukashenko regime figures

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Hundreds of people gathered in Rīga Wednesday evening to stage a peaceful protest outside the Belarusian embassy in Rīga. The picket expressed support for Belrusians suffering under the regime of Aleksander Lukasheno following recent rigged presidential elections.

Protesters chanted slogans and waved placards, and were addressed by Dainis Īvans, a leader fo Latvia's Popular Front movement, who gave an impassioned speech calling Lukshenko a dictator and the elections fraudulent.

"A [Saeima] resolution must be adopted that we do not recognize the elections in Belarus and the clique that has seized power after those elections. We must at least impose personal sanctions on Lukashenko and the bandits around him who shoot at their own people," Īvans implored.

That call appeared to be heeded on Thursday with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs saying on Twitter:

"As violence against peaceful protests in Belarus continues and there is a lack of political dialogue, Latvia supports the need to introduce individual sanctions against Belarusian officials responsible for crackdown of protests and election fraud."

Later Rinkēvičs expanded on that thought to Latvian Radio saying:

"We believe that this is the time to move from suggestions to concrete action. Specific and symbolic acts imposing sanctions on those Belarusian officials who are responsible both for the falsification of the elections and for taking the decisions to suppress the peaceful protesters. Tomorrow is the EU Foreign Affairs Council, which is due to hold a political debate on this issue, and I assume that a decision will be taken to launch the procedure for preparing sanctions. To this end, the EU has set up a working group and a procedure that will prepare a draft decision on a list of specific persons, which will then also have to be approved by the Council. Yesterday, I also discussed the situation quite extensively with colleagues from other EU Member States. We concluded that the situation is not developing in the direction we had called for, so this is the next logical step."

Turnout was large with around 1,000 people present, according to an LSM on-site estimate.

The embassy itself appeared to be empty and no-one emerged to talk with protesters. Only a small police presence was required and the demonstration itself was good-natured.

LTV provided live pictures from the event which can be viewed above and a gallery of images is below.


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