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Hungary Admits Granting Schengen Visa To Belarusian Official Expelled By Czechs

Uladzimer Bazanau (file photo)

The Hungarian Foreign Ministry has confirmed to RFE/RL that it issued a special visa to a Belarusian sports official allowing him to travel to the Czech Republic, from where he was expelled a week ago for violating COVID-19 pandemic rules.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has continued to maintain friendly ties with Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka amid international condemnation of widespread allegations of vote-rigging and brutal suppression of dissent since a disputed presidential election last year.

Uladzimer Bazanau and his wife were detained on November 30 in the northeastern Czech city of Opava ahead of a scheduled World Cup qualifier that same day between the Belarusian women's national soccer team and the Czech women's team. The game in Opava was postponed after a coronavirus outbreak in the Belarusian team.

Bazanau and his wife were deported the next day after being accused by Czech authorities of violating COVID-19 protocols.

Bazanau, an ally of Lukashenka, is on a sanctions list of the EU's Baltic member states -- Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Unlike Cyprus, where Bazanau and his wife had visited the day before, the Czech Republic enforces the Baltic states' sanctions.

The Hungarian Foreign Ministry told RFE/RL on December 7 that it issued Bazanau a 90-day Schengen visa, and that the Belarusian had an invitation from UEFA, European soccer's governing body.

The ministry claimed it had issued the visa on behalf of Switzerland, where UEFA is headquartered.

There has been no comment to that allegation from Swiss officials.

The Schengen area is a zone composed of 26 European countries that have officially abolished border controls between their territories.

The EU has passed five rounds of sanctions on Lukashenka's regime over a brutal crackdown on the country's pro-democracy movement in the wake of the disputed August 2020 election.

The bloc adopted its latest package of sanctions on December 2 over allegations Minsk orchestrated a migrant crisis on the border of Poland and fellow EU members Latvia and Lithuania.

The new sanctions target 17 individuals and 11 entities thought to be responsible for the crisis at the EU's eastern border, and should come into effect on their publication later on December 8 in the bloc’s Official Journal, a legal registry. In total, the EU has so far targeted 183 Belarusian individuals and 26 entities with sanctions.

Britain, the United States, and Canada also announced their own punitive measures on December 2 targeting Belarusian entities, including a complete asset freeze on a global leader in potash fertilizer, OJSC Belaruskali.

In a joint statement, the EU, Britain, Canada, and the United States cited "continuing attacks on human rights and fundamental freedoms in Belarus, disregard for international norms and repeated acts of repression."

Belarus's Foreign Ministry responded to the latest sanction announcements by vowing "harsh and asymmetrical" steps in response.

Minsk has denied it has funneled migrants, mainly from the Middle East, to Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania.

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    RFE/RL's Hungarian Service

    RFE/RL’s Hungarian Service -- closed after the Cold War ended -- was relaunched on September 8, 2020, in response to the country’s steep decline in media freedom. It's an entirely digital service dedicated to serving the public interest by representing a diversity of views and providing reliable, unbiased reporting about the issues audiences care about most.