Malta expresses concern over developments in Belarus

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Malta has expressed its concern over the unfolding events in Belarus during an EU foreign ministers meeting in which they agreed to prepare a list of Belarusian officials to be hit with sanctions following the post-election crackdown on demonstrators.

Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo participated in an extraordinary ministerial video-conference meeting of the Foreign Affairs Ministers on Friday. During the meeting, the member states discussed the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, the current political climate and protests in Belarus, as well as information points on the tragedy in Lebanon, and the political situation in Venezuela.

In a statement on Saturday, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said that Bartolo expressed concern on the unfolding developments in Belarus and the various reports which called into question the credibility of presidential elections. Bartolo said that protesting and freedom of assembly is a universal right. He called for an end to the use of disproportionate violence and arbitrary arrests.

Belarus has been gripped by protests after President Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in what the country’s opposition, the European Union and the United States have called an unfair election.

The official results show that Lukashenko – who has been in power for 26 years – won around 80% of the vote. The main opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, won 10%.

Tikhanovskaya joined the race after her husband, the original candidate, was arrested and had his bid for office rejected by Belarusan authorities. He remains in jail while Tikhanovskaya has since fled the country to neighboring Lithuania.

She has called on local authorities around the country to support the protests against Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule. Police have used live ammunition against demonstrators. Two protesters have been killed and hundreds injured.