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Time to Pressure Lukashenko

In an IHT article, Joerg Forbrig of the German Marshall Fund recommends that the EU take a tough stance against Lukashenko’s dictatorship.

The situation of the democrats in Belarus today is a humanitarian disaster. Numerous people remain behind bars, many without sufficient clothing, food, medical supplies or legal assistance. Once released, they face further police repression, loss of jobs or expulsion from universities. Many others have gone underground. All are in need of protection, shelter and financial support. The European Union must act immediately to help them, through embassies, via charities, through the acts of individual citizens.

By far the worst off are 23 key detainees — including opposition candidates and their associates — who are held in K.G.B. prisons, where, according to Amnesty International, they are interrogated and even tortured. At least two of them, Andrei Sannikov and Vladimir Neklaev, are in fast-declining health and require immediate medical assistance. The European Union must demand humane treatment, access to doctors, lawyers and relatives, and eventual release for these detainees.

On all other issues, the relationship between the European Union and Belarus should be put on ice. Projects such as a plan for deeper cooperation, participation in E.U. projects like the Eastern Partnership, credit lines or economic aid by European agencies should be frozen pending action by the regime in Minsk on the detainees.