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EU Removes 24 Belarusians From Sanctions List

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said a decision by the European Union Council to remove 24 officials from its sanctions list is a "step in the right direction" towards better relations between Minsk and Brussels.

The ministry on August 3 called on the EU Council to remove all restrictions and sanctions it has applied to Belarus as a "necessary condition to stabilize relations," but added Minsk will continue talks with Brussels "on issues of mutual interest."

Many of the 24 people removed from the EU sanctions list -- which includes visa restrictions and asset freezes -- are ministers or former ministers in the administration of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, including his former aide Natalia Petkevich and former presidential administration head Henadz Nevyglas.

The list also includes former Belarus TV1 host Yury Prokopov, some university rectors, and 12 judges.

Many of those removed from the EU's sanctions list had been on it since 2006.

The EU Council gave no reason for removing the 24 from the blacklist but said that the sanctions against Belarus must continue because "not all political prisoners were released and rehabilitated" and the "principles of a law-ruled state and democratic society have not improved in Belarus."

Based on reporting by Interfax and TASS