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Lukashenka to the West: The Ball is in Your Court

Lukashenka came to vote in Minsk on October 11 with his youngest son

After casting his ballot at a Minsk polling station today, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said that the West has finally realized the futility of its sanctions policy against Minsk.

«They [in the West] have become convinced that the sanctions are harmful and they have seen that Belarus is a respectable state,» he noted.

According to Lukashenka, the normalization of relations between Belarus and the West is now dependent solely on the West.

«We have done everything they wanted,» the Belarusian president said.

Following the violent crackdown on the opposition post-election protest on December 19, 2010, the European Union introduced visa and financial sanctions against more than 200 Belarusian officials and companies that provided financial support to the ruling regime. Brussels made its sanctions conditional not only on the release of all political prisoners but also on their rehabilitation.

Lukashenka ordered the release of several remaining political prisoners in the run-up to the October 11 presidential polls but no steps have thus far been taken to restore their civic rights. Police did not interfere with opposition demonstrations over the weekend.

As a result of these improvements, the EU is likely to announce a suspension of current sanctions as early as Monday in Luxembourg.