The release of ex-presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau and his aide Zmitser Bandarenka «shows the strength of the European Union,» Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, told European Parliament members in Luxembourg on April 17, 2012. According to her, this release shows how important it is for the EU to keep the unity.
The EU foreign policy chief said that she was «pleased» that the two opposition politicians had been freed. «We are in touch, and I do hope that we may be seeing an opportunity in Belarus,» she said.
The release of the politicians «shows more than anything that standing together is so important,» Catherine Ashton said.
On April 14, 2012 ex-presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau was released from Vitsba-3 penal colony under president Lukashenka’s decree of pardon. Zmitser Bandarenka, a coordinator of European Belarus civil company and Andrey Sannikau’s election agent, was set free from Mahiliou penal colony №15 on April 15, 2012.
According to human rights defenders, thirteen political prisoners remain behind bars in Belarus.