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Lithuania says EU's inaction over Belarus undermines foreign policy credibility: FT

FILE PHOTO: Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius attends a news conference, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Riga, Latvia May 15, 2020. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

(Reuters) - The European Union’s lack of action over Belarus is undermining the credibility of its foreign policy, Lithuanian foreign affairs minister Linas Linkevicius told the Financial Times newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.

The EU needs to encourage democracy and counter Russia’s influence in Belarus, Linkevicius said in the interview, adding that the bloc should provide “concrete help” to Belarus’ opposition.

“Sometimes we react too late and our measures are fragmented and aren’t making any impression on society or the people in power,” Linkevicius said.

“When we will not stand true on our national commitments, it will shatter our own foundation”, he said. “Belarusian people should not feel deserted.”

Linkevicius said that he would have preferred the EU to wield sanctions, as Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia had done against President Alexander Lukashenko and 29 other Belarusian officials.

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya called on the United Nations on Friday to condemn the crackdown by Lukashenko on protesters who charge he rigged his re-election victory last month.

Tsikhanouskaya also called on the international community to impose sanctions on the individuals responsible for electoral violations. The opposition leader spoke from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, where she fled after Lukashenko launched his crackdown.

Lukashenko, in power for 26 years, has faced a wave of opposition protests since his Aug. 9 election victory. He has denied accusations by the opposition and Western countries that the vote was rigged and has resisted demands to step down.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore