Release of dissidents in Belarus brings EU praise
The EU’s foreign affairs chief, Baroness Ashton, has welcomed the early release of two dissidents in Belarus but urged Minsk to free “all other remaining political prisoners”.
Andrei Sannikov, who ran against President Alexander Lukashenko in the 2010 presidential election, and his aide Dmitry Bondarenko jointly celebrated their release on Sunday.
Opposition activists and Western observers say the election was flawed.
Belarus is under US and EU sanctions.
Another former presidential candidate, Nikolai Statkevich, is among about a dozen dissidents still in jail in Belarus.
Mr Sannikov received a five-year jail sentence last May on charges of organising mass protests that followed the presidential election.
A former top diplomat, he came in second to Mr Lukashenko, who has governed Belarus since 1994 and won the election controversially in a landslide.
Mr Bondarenko was jailed for two years in connection with the mass protests.
Pictured: The pair’s release comes amid Western sanctions on Mr Lukashenko’s government