Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko ordered a nationwide amnesty to mark Independence Day on July 3, prompting talks about release of political prisoners in the country.
However, Lukashenko himself denied that the amnesty is a political move aimed to solve the crisis in EU-Belarusian relations, caused by jailing of opposition activists in Belarus.
“It’s a message to the public and an incentive for the convicts. There should be nothing political about it,” Lukashenko said.
Interior Minister Igor Shunevich said on Tuesday some 2,600 people will be released from the country’s prisons as part of the amnesty, including hundreds of underage convicts, pregnant women and women with small children.
The bill will be filed with the parliament within days, Shunevich said. He also denied the country has political prisoners.
Lukashenko earlier pardoned two of his former rivals in the disputed presidential elections in 2010, jailed over street riots that followed the vote. However, the EU said nine more activists currently serving time in Belarus are also political prisoners and demanded their release.
The standoff between Minsk and Brussels peaked in February, when the European Union expanded its blacklist of Belarusian officials and Minsk briefly recalled its ambassadors from EU countries in retaliation.