Lukashenko promises pardons for Belarusian dissidents


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The Independent Online

Alexander Lukashenko has pardoned 11 prisoners who had been jailed for taking part in protests against his re-election last December.

The move is being seen as a bargaining chip to help Belarus secure loans from the European Union. The country is in the midst of a severe economic crisis, and is lacking hard currency. The street value of the Belarusian rouble slid dramatically yesterday, as citizens attempted to get hold of dollars or euros.

Hundreds were arrested in Minsk after tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against a rigged election victory for Mr Lukashenko, who has run Belarus on neo-Soviet lines since 1994.

The presidency said yesterday that 11 prisoners had been pardoned but did not name them. It was unclear whether three former presidential candidates who stood against Mr Lukashenko are among them.