Masked men arrested one of the last Belarusian opposition figures who had not yet been arrested or exiled. Maxime Znak is one of seven members of the “coordination council” formed by opponents of the government to promote the transition of power and negotiate the departure of President Alexander Lukashenko.
The 39-year-old lawyer was led by men with covered faces and in plain clothes, according to a photo published by their supporters. The arrest comes a month after the start of an unprecedented protest movement in the country.
After his arrest, the only one of the seven members of the “council” leadership still at large is the Nobel Prize winner for Literature, Svetlana Alexievich.
The sign is Maria Kolesnikova, who on Tuesday (8) refused a forced exile in Ukraine, are being sued for “undermining national security”, according to Minsk’s announcement on Wednesday. Both are imprisoned in the capital and face up to five years in prison on this charge of instigating “actions designed to destabilize the situation” in Belarus.
European Council presses for sanctions
European Council President Charles Michel on Wednesday called on the 27 member states of the European Union to “speed up” the adoption of sanctions against Belarus. So far, Cyprus is blocking further European measures against Minsk. “The political persecution in Belrus, which includes arrests for political reasons and forced exile (of opponents) must end (…). I call for the acceleration of the sanctions process,” said Michel on Twitter.
European chancellors gave the green light in August to punish those responsible for cracking down on the protest movement against President Lukashenko. The European Council has drawn up a list of names against which bans on entry and freezing of accounts should be imposed. According to diplomatic sources, the list currently contains about 40 names.
However, Cyprus showed at a meeting on Wednesday that it still could not agree to sanctions against Belarus, which prevents the adoption of such measures, as they require unanimous approval.
Greece and Cyprus are on the front lines against Turkey, which claims the right to explore oil deposits in a maritime area that Athens considers to be under its sovereignty.
The sanctions will be discussed at the next meeting of European chancellors on 21 September. Relations with Turkey will also be on the agenda for the European summit scheduled for September 24 and 25.
Serbia cancels military exercise
Amid the climate of uncertainty, Serbia has renounced participating in planned military exercises with Russia in Belarus. According to Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin, the decision was taken after pressure from the European Union, a bloc that the country has aspirations to join. Troops were expected in Minsk between 10 and 15 September.