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Belarus protesters receive EU support

The Europian Union called on Belarus to release the activists arrested during clashes with opposition protestors in Minsk on 25 March 2007.

Some 15,000 protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against the regime of „Europe's last dictator”, authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, accusing him of fraud during last year's elections. „I call on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release all those who are detained for having expressed their views freely and peacefully,” External Relations and Neighborhood Policy Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said on 26 March 2007. Some 74 opposition activists were reportedly detained before and during the protests.

EU President Angela Merkel and Commission President José Manuel Barroso sent out a message of solidarity to the people of Belarus. Barroso said the „EU is ready to enter into a full partnership with Belarus on the basis of the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law” and offered financial support. „The demonstration proved the determination of the people of Belarus to continue their struggle for more democracy and freedom of speech as well as the knowledge that they have the support of the EU,” Polish MEP Janus Onyszkiewicz stated. The protests coincided with the anniversary of the first Belarussian declaration of independence in 1918 and also with the EU's 50th anniversary celebrations in Berlin. (www.euractiv.com)