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Some Banned Belarusians Say EU Sanctions Will Not Hurt Them

Central Election Commission Secretary Mikalay Lazavik said he deserved "an award" for supporting democratic reforms.
Central Election Commission Secretary Mikalay Lazavik said he deserved "an award" for supporting democratic reforms.
MINSK -- Some of the Belarusian officials and others who were sanctioned this week by the European Union and the United States say the measures will not hurt them, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

The European Union decided on January 31 to ban 158 Belarusians from entering EU countries as punishment for the mass arrests and beatings of opposition activists in December.

On the same day, the U.S. government banned the same group from entering the United States. Washington also put a freeze on the financial assets of many of the officials.

Among those banned were government officials, Central Election Commission members, police, KGB officers, and some journalists working for state-run media.

Belarusian Foreign Ministry press secretary Andrey Savinykh told RFE/RL the ministry was working on its official response to the sanctions. He said it would be based on the principles of "mutual understanding and cooperation" that Savinykh said Belarus had always respected.

Central Election Commission Secretary Mikalay Lazavik told RFE/RL that, in fact, he deserved "an award" for supporting democratic reforms, and it was opposition activists and their leaders who should be banned from entering the EU.

Lazavik said he did not care about the sanctions, as he has no intention of travelling to EU member countries. He added that if organizations like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) invited him or any other official to take part in a meeting in Europe, it would be up to the OSCE to arrange a visa for him.

Viktar Sirenka, the head doctor at a Minsk health clinic who allowed KGB officers to arrest severely beaten opposition presidential candidate Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu, has likewise been banned from visiting the EU.

He told RFE/RL that he had no bank accounts, property, or business ties in Europe and therefore the EU sanctions would not affect him personally.

As for contacts with European colleagues, Sirenka claimed several doctors from Poland, Germany, and Italy are expected to arrive in Minsk next week to discuss professional issues with him.

Former Belarusian parliament deputy Syarhey Kastsyan told RFE/RL that the EU sanctions were "medieval savagery."

The Belarusian officials banned from entering the EU include President Alyaksandr Lukashenka; his two sons Viktar and Dzmitry; presidential office head Uladzimer Makey; Secretary of State Security Leanid Maltsau; Prosecutor-General Ryhor Vasilevich; Interior Minister Anatol Kulyashou; KGB Chairman Vadzim Zaytsau; Defense Minister Yury Zhadobin; and all members of the Central Election Commission, including its chairwoman, Lidziya Yarmoshyna.

Read more in Belarusian here