Merkel demands ‘unconditional’ release of protesters in Belarus, as European Commission chief calls for sanctions

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen have slammed Minsk over its handling of post-presidential election protests and clashes across the country.

Merkel’s spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, said that the chancellor was “shocked” by the reports of Belarusian protesters being abused in police custody.

Belarus must unconditionally and immediately release the people [detained in relation to the protests].

Seibert urged Minsk to respect the freedom of assembly and the access to information.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, meanwhile, demanded “additional sanctions against those who violated democratic values or abused human rights in Belarus.” She added that EU foreign ministers will show “strong support” for human rights and democracy in the country.

Demonstrations erupted in Belarus after President Alexander Lukashenko was accused of rigging the vote to secure his re-election for a sixth term last week. The rallies frequently led to fierce clashes with police, during which at least one person was killed. Overall, more than 6,700 people were detained since the protests began.

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