David Sassoli: Pressure on Belarus continues | free press

The EU continues to press for the release of blogger Roman Protassewitsch. Parliament Speaker David Sassoli wants to keep the attention and pressure on Belarus.

Berlin (dpa) – EU Parliament Speaker David Sassoli wants to keep up the pressure on Belarus to secure the release of blogger Roman Protassewitsch and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega.

In the papers, Sassoli suggested to the Funke media group to display photos of Protassevich at all airports in the EU and in the European Parliament. “We will keep the attention and pressure high and hope that this will lead to the release of Roman Protassevich and his partner Sofia Sapega,” the speaker said.

Sassoli called the EU’s initial response to the heavily criticized emergency landing of a passenger plane in Minsk “strong and closed”.

The confrontation between Belarus and the West had come to a head when Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko grounded a Ryanair passenger plane last Sunday to arrest one of his opponents. Protassevich has been in jail ever since, as has his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, a Russian.

The EU already agreed on sanctions on Monday. The US also announced punitive measures. Under pressure from the new sanctions, Lukashenko flew to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on the Black Sea. Russia wants to support authoritarian-led Belarus with a $500 million loan by the end of June, the Kremlin announced on Saturday.

Sassoli assumed that the relationship between Minsk and Moscow would be further strengthened. In light of the poisoning and imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexej Navalny and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, he described the EU’s relations with Russia as “very tense”.

“We need to tighten sanctions against Russian officials, but also strengthen contacts with the population and civil society and support Russian dissidents, NGOs and independent media,” Sassoli told Funke newspapers.

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