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Lukashenka Invited To Brussels Dinner

Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Sochi in February

BRUSSELS -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been invited to a dinner hosted by European Council President Donald Tusk to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership in Brussels on May 13.

Several EU sources speaking under the condition of anonymity have confirmed that Lukashenka last week was invited alongside the leaders of the EU's other five eastern partners -- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

However, they do not expect Lukashenka to show up in person, saying that Minsk could be represented instead by Foreign Minister Uladzimer Makei, who also attended the 2017 Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels on behalf of his country.

That summit was the first high-level event organized by the European Union in which Lukashenka was allowed to attend after having been excluded from the previous four summits.

Belarus, which has been under Lukashenka's rule for 25 years and has been called the "last dictatorship of Europe," was sanctioned by Brussels in the wake of the crackdown that followed the presidential election in December 2010.

But in February 2016, in response to the release of all political prisoners in August 2015, the EU lifted most sanctions against the country.

Those included the lifting of asset freezes and visa bans on 170 Belarusians, Lukashenka among them, and restrictive measures against 14 companies.

The EU launched the Eastern Partnership in 2009 to promote economic integration and European values in the six Eastern European and South Caucasus countries without a clear pathway to eventual EU membership.

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