BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union has suspended sanctions against Belarus following smooth elections there and the government's decision to release political prisoners.
The EU said in a statement on Thursday that asset freezes and travel bans on 170 people had been lifted for four months. An arms embargo and restrictions on four others will remain in place.
The 28-nation bloc said it would continue to monitor democracy and human rights in Belarus, leaving open the possibility that the sanctions could be permanently lifted.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected earlier this month to a fifth term with 83 percent of the vote in polls that were boycotted by the opposition.
He was slapped with an EU and U.S. travel ban in 2006 when a presidential candidate was jailed.
Belarusian political analyst Yaroslav Romanchuk said the move could invigorate investment in Belarus, whose economy is in poor condition; the national GDP has fallen 4 percent this year.
"Lukashenko acutely needs money. Ending sanctions opens Belarusian companies' access to financing from the European Investment Bank," he said.