Andrei Sannikov, one of Belarus's most prominent political prisoners was released on April 14 from what The Independent describes as one of his country’s “notorious gulag prison camps”. Sannikov, a former Deputy Foreign Minister, and one of the most popular opposition candidates to stand against Alexander Lukashenko in the December 2010 presidential election, was arrested in the wake of protests claiming fraud after President Lukashenko won a fourth term with a suspiciously high margin. He was later sentenced to five years hard labour for participating in "mass riots".

In an interview with the London daily, Sannikov has described conditions endured during his 18 month incarceration. Having already accused the Belarusian secret service, the KGB, of torture, he said -

For much of my time I was kept in solitary confinement but when they moved me to my last prison it was forbidden to talk to me. If someone started to speak to me, and I don't mean showing support for me or expressing some kind of solidarity, they would be immediately moved into worse conditions or sent to another colony.

Sannikov’s release, along with that of his political aide, Zmitser Bandarenka, is partly due to their decision to seek a presidential pardon, The Independent notes -

This allows the Minsk regime to emphasise that they have admitted their guilt and to stress that the authorities have been magnanimous in releasing them.

The move has nevertheless been hailed in some quarters as a sign that EU diplomatic pressure, including travel bans and withdrawal of ambassadors, has been successful. Sannikov, the London daily adds, has nevertheless “warned Europe against making concessions to the regime until all political prisoners [which number in the hundreds] are released.”