MEPs deplore "substantial deterioration" in Belarus
"We are deeply concerned about the continued failure of the Belarusian authorities to improve the election environment and their manifest lack of intention to create conditions for a genuine level-playing field between the candidates," said a joint statement by the chair of the European Parliament's delegation for relations with Belarus, MEP Robert Biedroń, and the EP's standing rapporteur on Belarus, MEP Petras Auštrevičius.
The new statement comes less than a week after the MEPs deplored the crackdown on peaceful protesters and civil society activists.
"Regrettably, in recent days we have been witnessing a substantial deterioration of the situation," it said.
The appeal "strongly opposes" the repeated detention of video blogger Siarhei Tsikhanouski, opposition leader Mikalai Statkevich and the arrests of dozens of others who attended peaceful and legal signature collection campaign events across the country.
"We very much deplore these provocations as they constitute yet another attack on the fundamental freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as a direct interference into the election process with the aim to prevent candidates from collecting the number of signatures required for the official presidential nomination," the MEPs said calling on the Belarusian authorities to "immediately release all the citizens who have been unjustly arrested and to put an immediate halt on this unacceptable wave of repression."
The statement stresses that the European Parliament may seek a "review of the European Union’s policy towards Belarus, including new sanctions targeting the officials responsible for these actions,” in case of more arbitrary arrests and restrictions on Belarusian citizens' right to freely exercise their political rights.