MOSCOW, March 19 (RIA Novosti) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko paid a working visit to Moscow on Monday as already strained ties between Belarus and Europe were further soured after two men, convicted of carrying out the 2011 Minsk subway blast, were executed despite calls from the West to suspend the punishment.
The Belarusian president arrived in the Russian capital to attend a summit of the Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec) a day after the Belarusian news agency Belta reported on Sunday that the execution of Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalyov had been carried out.
The two men were convicted of being behind the deadly bombing in the Minsk subway’s most crowded station on April 11, 2011, which killed 15 people and wounded hundreds others.
The two men were executed some three months after being convicted and two days after Lukashenko refused to pardon them. Executions in Belarus are normally carried out a year or two after the verdict in case new evidence emerges.
The Kommersant newspaper reported on Monday that the West condemned the execution and said it would speed up the introduction of new sanctions against Minsk. Brussels officials told Kommersant that the European Union’s reaction would be firm.
The possible EU sanctions target key Belarusian enterprises, including the Belarusian State Concern for Oil and Chemistry (Belneftekhim) and major banks. The EU council of ministers will discuss the list of enterprises and businessmen subject to sanctions by late March.
The EU leadership earlier asked Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to suspend the punishment, pledging to restore full-scale diplomatic relations with Minsk halted after a diplomatic spat in late February if he agreed.
A number of senior European officials have condemned the execution and offered their condolences to the families of the convicted bombers.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands Uri Rosenthal called on the EU to impose tougher sanctions against Belarus.
“It is unacceptable that execution still takes place in Belarus. I reiterate my call for the EU to tighten sanctions against the last dictatorship in Europe," the minister said in a statement.
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland warned that “with its disrespect of basic human rights and democratic standards, the government of Belarus is increasingly isolating its country and its people from the rest of the world."
The President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz said he was “appalled” by the execution and called on the Belarusian authorities “to show some human dignity and return the bodies to the families.”