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Sanctions against Belarus ‘not conducive to reform’: Lavrov

Russia’s foreign minister said Saturday that extending sanctions against Belarus would not be “conducive” to reforms in the post-Soviet state, which has prosecuted dozens of leading opposition members.

Russia views the latest legal processes against political opposition “negatively” and “calls on Belarus to fulfill its international human rights obligations,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in televised remarks.

But “when it comes to sanctions, we believe that this step will not be conducive to results that we are talking about,” Lavrov said.

“It is not isolation but drawing (Belarus) in that will promote democratic and market reform,” Russia’s top diplomat said.

Belarus has convicted dozens of people, including three former presidential candidates, of rioting and disturbing order on December 19, when tens of thousands took to the streets of Minsk to protest Alexander Lukashenko’s re-election.

Many Western countries have called for extending sanctions against Lukashenko’s regime, with Poland on Friday urging other European nations to “increase the pressure” on the strongman leader.

Poland, Germany and France all back new sanctions that would “make life difficult for companies which finance the regime,” in the words of Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski.

But Russia has considered giving cash-strapped Belarus a bail-out loan to help it salvage a teetering economy, and plans to review its loan application to the Russian-led economic union of post-Soviet states in early June.