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EU Leaders Introduce Economic Sanctions Over 'Violent Repression' In Belarus


The new raft of sanctions targets major sources of revenue for Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime.

The European Union has imposed sanctions on key sectors of the Belarusian economy and major revenue sources for the regime of authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka, including potash fertilizer exports, the tobacco industry, petroleum, and petrochemical products, following the forced diversion of a passenger flight to Minsk last month that allowed for the arrest of a dissident journalist and his girlfriend.

The new restrictive measures were introduced on June 24 "to respond to the escalation of serious human rights violations in Belarus and the violent repression of civil society, democratic opposition and journalists, as well as to the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk on 23 May 2021 and the related detention of journalist Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega," the Council of the EU said in a statement on June 24.

Lukashenka’s regime has been under international pressure since it launched a brutal crackdown on the political opposition and independent media in the wake of a disputed election in August 2020.

The protesters have said that election was rigged, while the EU, the United States, and other countries have refused to recognize the official results of the vote and do not consider Lukashenka to be the country's legitimate leader.

The crisis hit a new level on May 23 when Belarusian authorities scrambled a military jet to escort an Athens-Vilnius Ryanair flight to land in Minsk in what many countries regarded as a "state hijacking." After the plane, which was diverted just before it left Belarusian airspace, landed, law enforcement immediately arrested opposition blogger Pratasevich and Sapega, his Russian girlfriend.

Belarusian Journalist Seized After Ryanair Jet 'Forcibly' Diverted To Minsk
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EU foreign ministers signed off on the new EU targeted economic sanctions against Belarus earlier this week.

They include "the prohibition to directly or indirectly sell, supply, transfer or export to anyone in Belarus equipment, technology or software intended primarily for use in the monitoring or interception of the internet and of telephone communications, and dual-use goods and technologies for military use and to specified persons, entities or bodies in Belarus."

The trade of arms, petroleum products, potassium chloride, which is used for potash fertilizers, and goods used for the production or manufacture of tobacco products will be restricted.

Financial sanctions include restrictions on access to EU capital markets for the Belarusian government, as well as Belarusian state-owned financial institutions and entities, and a prohibition on providing insurance and re-insurance to the government, public bodies, and agencies.

Any disbursements or payments by the European Investment Bank (EIB) relating to existing agreements between the EIB and Belarus or any public authority will be prohibited.

EU member states are "required to take actions" to limit the involvement in Belarus of multilateral development banks of which they are members.

The European Union, the United States, Britain, and Canada have previously slapped sanctions on Belarus over the diversion of the Ryanair flight, including asset freezes and visa bans imposed against dozens of officials, lawmakers, and ministers from Lukashenka's administration and his family members, as well as Belarusian entities.

The EU has also denied permission to any aircraft operated by Belarusian air carriers to land in, take off from, or overfly EU territories.

Previous rounds of Western sanctions also hit individual institutions and Lukashenka's inner circle over the brutal crackdown on the opposition by the Belarusian authorities in the wake of last years’ disputed presidential election.

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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe editor for RFE/RL in Prague, focusing on coverage of the European Union and NATO. He previously worked as RFE/RL’s Brussels correspondent, covering numerous international summits, European elections, and international court rulings. He has reported from most European capitals, as well as Central Asia.