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Belarus Backs Down on Border Security Citing Blackmail 26 April 2012

Belarus will reduce the number of border guard troops on its borders with the EU.

The change is in response to increased EU sanctions against Belarus, in a tit-for-tat game of politics.

minsk

In March EU foreign ministers made a unanimous decision to reinforce restrictive measures against the Belarusian regime. Audronius Ažubalis, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, underlined that those measures only affect the regime and officials personally responsible for acts of repression, but not ordinary Belarusians.

The EU Ministers added 12 persons to the list of those targeted by restrictive measures and agreed to include 29 entities due to their role in supporting the regime. 231 individuals and three companies linked to the regime were already subject to restrictive measures.

The Belarus response is that exit border checks of those leaving Belarus are to become less strict, while entry control procedures will be strengthened, Euroradio was told by the press secretary of the State Border Committee Alyaksandr Tishchanka.

“The matter is that the EU sanctions are aimed to hit big companies which make substantial contribution to the budget of Belarus. How can it go without consequences? Maybe everyone got used we put equal efforts to exit and entry control. But now we are going to cut our efforts to control exit from Belarus in view of financial problems. This means we give the right to control entry to the EU to our neighbours.”

Alyaksandr Tishchanka added that Belarusian border guards will not refuse to protect the borders of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

“We cannot say there will be a 'hole' on the border,” he stressed. “But now, in view of the sanctions, we revise our priorities in favour of inner interests.”

The statement comes just as countries are returning their ambassadors to Minsk after they were withdrawn after the first round of EU restrictions were implemented.

The envoys from the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden, Lithuania, Estonia and other countries have either already returned to Belarus or will soon do so.

Their return was prompted by the release from custody of former presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau and his campaign aide Dzmitry Bandarenka, who were detained in the aftermath of mass protests against Lukashenka's reelection at the end of 2010.

Lithuania, as a neighbour of Belarus, is playing a leading role in trying to bring the former Soviet state back in from the cold. Along with Poland they also might share a guilty conscience.

Lithuania and Poland both handed over the private banking details of Belarus human rights defender Ales Bialistki, and the evidence supplied by Lithuania and Poland led to Bialistki being sentenced to four and half years of hard labour.

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