EU imposes new sanctions on Belarus and targets its economy | Economic news
By LORNE COOK, Associated Press
BRUSSELS (AP) – European Union foreign ministers agreed on Monday to impose sanctions on dozens of officials and several organizations in Belarus, and prepared a series of economic measures aimed at hitting President Alexander Lukashenko and its allies.
The EU has gradually stepped up sanctions since Lukashenko – dubbed Europe’s last dictator – won a sixth term last August in an election he considers fraudulent. The measures targeted those accused of electoral misconduct and responsible for the subsequent police crackdown.
But the EU has taken a tougher approach since Belarusian authorities forced a Ryanair plane to land in Minsk last month, and on the country’s alleged use of migrants to pressure neighboring Lithuania, which has provided refuge for Belarusian opposition figures and is one of Lukashenko’s most vocal critics.
The ministers imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 78 Belarusian officials and froze the assets of 8 “entities”, which are usually companies, banks or associations. This means that a total of 166 people and 15 entities are now subject to restrictive EU measures.
“This decision was taken in view of the escalation of serious human rights violations in Belarus and the violent repression of civil society, the democratic opposition and journalists,” said a statement.
Seven people and one entity were affected in the “forced and illegal” landing of the Ryanair plane, which was on its way from Greece to Lithuania when it was ordered to stop in Minsk, where authorities arrested Raman Pratasevich, a dissident journalist who was one of the passengers.
The EU had previously banned Belarusian airlines from flying over the bloc’s territory or using its airports.
Borrell said ministers would also prepare a series of economic sanctions that EU leaders are expected to approve at a summit on Thursday. “It will hurt, will seriously damage Belarus’ economy,” he said.
The measures are expected to include measures against the export of potash – a common fertilizer ingredient – tobacco industry exports and petroleum products, among others.
“We will no longer be satisfied with sanctioning individuals. We will now also impose sectoral sanctions, which means that we will now work on the economic areas which are of particular importance for Belarus and for the regime’s revenues, ”said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
“We want to say very, very clearly to Lukashenko that there is no turning back,” Maas said.
Maas said the 27 EU countries were united on sanctions “We are really, very, very determined not to budge, not just today – nothing about that will change in the weeks and months to come.” , did he declare.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said EU countries thought only a month ago that it would still be possible to reason with Lukashenko, but that “the mood is different now”.
Landsbergis accused Minsk of “weapon” migratory flows. He said around 500 people have fled to Lithuania, most of them from Iraq, and Belarusian border guards have brought 30 refugees to the border in recent days. He said Lithuania has limited capacity for them and is building a tent camp.
To kick off Monday’s meeting, ministers held a working breakfast with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition candidate to challenge Lukashenko in last year’s elections.
Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.
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