Dutch FM concerned by peaceful protesters' arrests in Belarus
The Dutch government is concerned about the course of the recent elections in Belarus, and the police crackdown on peaceful protesters in the immediate aftermath, Minister Stef Blok of Foreign Affairs said in a letter to parliament. He called on the Belarus authorities to immediately release anyone arrested during the demonstrations.
Presidential elections were held in Belarus on Sunday. According to the official results, sitting president Alexander Lukashenko got 80 percent of the votes, and opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya only got 10 percent, NOS reports. But at polling stations where Tsikhanouskaya's supporters could check the results, and the alternative exit poll, she was the big winner. Tsikhanouskaya protested the results of the election, and then left the country under unclear circumstances.
Over the past days, there were massive protests in the capital of Minsk and dozens of other cities in Belarus. The riot police cracked down on these protests. At least two people were killed and many were injured, including an NRC correspondent. An unknown number of protesters were detained. Belarus residents took to the streets again overnight, but as the internet in the country was shut down, it is unclear how the protests went.
Minister Blok said in his letter to parliament that employees of the Dutch embassy in Minsk, and a number of their colleagues from other countries, tried to observe the elections, and noted "various irregularities". But he said nothing about not recognizing the results, as parliamentarians from coalition parties CDA, D66 and ChritstenUnie asked him to do.
The Netherlands is not taking any concrete steps against Belarus at this stage, Blok said. He wants to wait for a joint EU response on this front.
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrel released a statement saying that the European Union is closely monitoring the situation in Belarus and warned that relations between the country and the EU could deteriorate. No concrete steps were mentioned.
D66 parliamentarian Sjoerd Sjoerdsma is disappointed in the government's response, he said on Twitter. He called for "a little more spice", saying that "platitudes" are not appropriate for this moment. CDA MP Pieter Omtzigt wants the EU to come up with a "strong response", he said to BNR. "They have to make a decision, either we recognize Lukashenko or we recognize Tsikhanouskaya." He worries that a violent revolution will lead to more refugees fleeing to Europe.