Belarus yesterday dismissed as "short-sighted" an EU travel ban imposed on President Alexander Lukashenko and 30 top officials to press home the 25-nation bloc's denunciation of his re-election last month.
"Short-sighted actions of this sort are clearly ineffective and serve only to complicate problems in our relations rather than trying to solve them," Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Popov said in a statement.
Belarus has rejected allegations by the European Union and United States that Lukashenko's March 19 re-election, with an official tally of 83 per cent of the vote, was flagrantly rigged.
Western countries have long accused the veteran Belarussian leader of authoritarianism.
Lukashenko was sworn in at the weekend for a third term and said his victory showed Belarussians wanted no part of what he described as Western-inspired attempts to foment upheaval.
The European Union yesterday banned Lukashenko and 30 ministers, prosecutors and regional election officials from entering the 25-nation bloc.
EU foreign ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, said they had sanctioned them for rigging the presidential polls and for a crackdown on opposition activists.
The EU did not freeze the assets of the banned individuals for now but warned it may do so later, possibly as early as next month, and asked the executive European Commission to propose further targeted measures.
"We should impose that kind of measure in the future," Czech Foreign minister Cyril Svoboda told reporters about asset freezes.
The foreign ministers vowed to help Belarussian civil society, including by enabling students to come and study in the EU and by enhancing access to independent media.
Lukashenko was number one on the visa-ban list, followed by his head of presidential administration, Gennady Nevyglas, the ministers of education, information and justice, as well as the chairman of the lower house of parliament and the head of the KGB security service.
Others named include the prosecutor-general, several judges and prosecutors, the country's seven regional election officials and the head of the state television and radio company.
Alexander Milinkevich, nearest rival to Lukashenko in the elections, called for hundreds more officials to be put on the list of banned people when he spoke at the European Parliament last week, but argued against economic sanctions.
Svoboda also urged his European partners to agree to ban more individuals from entering the EU.
The visa ban list is open, names may be added, or could be withdrawn if jailed activists are freed and human rights and media freedom improve, the ministers said in a statement.
Many ministers said the EU should raise the issue of Belarus with Russia, including to ask it to apply pressure on Minsk for the freeing of activists, an EU official said.
Source: China Daily