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US, EU call for release of Belarusian opposition figures; more supporters join hunger strike

US, EU call for release of Belarusian opposition figures; more supporters join hunger strike

The United States and the European Union on Monday called again for the release of all political prisoners in Belarus, including an opposition leader who went on a hunger strike after he was denied permission to attend his wife's funeral.
Alexander Kozulin's two daughters and three other supporters, meanwhile, have also joined the hunger strike.
Kozulin was arrested during an opposition protest after challenging authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in the March 2006 presidential elections. He was sentenced later that year to 5 1/2 years in prison for organizing mass protests.
Prison authorities on Sunday denied Kozulin's request for temporary release to bury his wife, Irina, who died Saturday from cancer _ a decision his lawyer said was illegal. The funeral was scheduled for Tuesday.
Kozulin on Sunday began refusing food and water in protest.
The U.S. Embassy in Minsk said in a statement it offered condolences to Kozulin and their daughters, Olga and Yulia, and said it "repeats its call for the release of all political prisoners."
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Union's commissioner for external relations, also urged authorities to release Kozulin, saying: "Putting an end to the practice of detaining citizens on political grounds in Belarus would be a significant step on the Belarusian side."
Washington and Brussels have imposed sanctions against Lukashenko and other government officials for quashing political opposition, shuttering independent media and holding elections that the West has dismissed as illegitimate.
Several opposition figures have been released since the start of the year in what Lukashenko called "an unprecedented step of good will toward the West."


Updated : 2021-06-25 06:07 GMT+08:00