Selin ATAY-TDO- Lithuanian government announced on Wednesday that it has blocked 5.8 million euros in payments to Belarus for an EU-funded cross-border development program with the fear that the money could be misused.

After the disputed August 9 presidential election in Belarus, the European Union has condemned police crackdowns on protesters in Belarus and stated that the Union did not consider Lukashenko as a legitimate leader.  Also, the European Union last week imposed travel bans and asset freezes on dozens of Belarusian officials.

Lithuania has been one of the strongest backers of a strong EU stance against President Alexander Lukashenko’s attempts to stifle opposition. Also Lithuania is hosting Lukashenko’s main opponent Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who fled there after the election.

Lithuanian Interior Ministry spokeswoman Bozena Zaborovska told reporters that payments for the cross-border aid program that Lithuania oversees were stopped immediately after the post-election crackdown because of the fear that the money would be misused by Lukashenko's government.

“All payments were ceased until we receive clarification from the European Commission on the apparent risks,” Lithuanian Interior Ministry spokeswoman Bozena Zaborovska said. The funds have not been redirected for other purposes had been shelved until the expected clarification made, spokeswoman Bozena Zaborovska added.

According to the EU Observer newspaper report which released on Tuesday, Belarus had purchased 15 surveillance drones with using EU money. The news prompted alarm they could be used against pro-democracy demonstrators.

The aim of the funding programme is to develop regions on both sides of the border between Belarus and EU members Lithuania and Latvia. The EU will contribute 74 million euros to Belarus by channelling funds through neighbouring EU countries.

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