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Belarus Frees Key Opposition Figure

Former presidential candidate Dmitry Vus is released a day after EU calls on Minsk to free all political prisoners.
Belarus has released a key opposition figure, a day after the European Union called on Minsk to release all political prisoners.

Dmitry Vus ran as a candidate in the country's presidential election in December, won by Alyaksandr Lukashenka in a poll widely condemned by the West as rigged.

Vus, like other opposition leaders and activists, was arrested in a crackdown following the disputed poll.

"I think he was released given the state of his health," his mother Sofia said, adding he had been given a presidential pardon.

His release comes a day after the EU warned Lukashenka to free all political prisoners if Minsk wanted warmer ties with Brussels.

The EU and United States imposed sanctions on Belarus and a travel ban on its top officials following the postelection crackdown.

The statement was issued at a summit in the Polish capital Warsaw, which Belarus snubbed.

The Warsaw meeting focused on the EU's so-called Eastern Partnership, a plan to foster closer ties between the EU and six former Soviet republics, including Belarus.

Quoted by the official Belarus news agency Belta, Lukashenka dismissed the EU's Eastern Partnership as just "chatter."

"We give too much attention to these European meetings. Some bureaucrat in Brussels who no-one has ever heard of blathers away and we start to tremble," he said.

compiled from agency reports