On April 14, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenka freed the jailed former presidential candidate and opposition leader Andrei Sannikov. According to President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, this demonstrates that the EU's common foreign policy initiatives can bring results.
“I am pleased that one of the leading Belarussian opposition figures, the former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov, has been released after having spent nearly one-and-a-half years in jail as a political prisoner,” President Toomas Hendrik Ilves told BNS.
The freeing of political prisoners has been one of the demands made by the EU to the Minsk regime.
“Sannikov's release demonstrates that the EU's common foreign policy initiatives can bring results,” Ilves said.
“According to international human rights organizations, the Belarussian authorities are still keeping about a dozen prisoners of conscience in jail. Until those people have been released unconditionally, we cannot speak about the beginning of a normalization of relations between the EU and Belarus,” said Ilves.
Sannikov was arrested in December, 2010, and sentenced to five years in prison for organizing a mass disturbance during the presidential elections. Back then, almost all the Belarussian presidential candidates were detained, along with various other opposition figures and activists, but by now, most of them have been released.
Sannikov had initially refused to ask Lukashenka for pardon, but said that he had changed his mind after his family had been threatened.