More EU and US sanctions against Belarus regime

The European Union and the United States impose new sanctions against the Belarusian regime. EU foreign ministers have decided to ban 78 Belarusians from entering the EU. Their assets in the EU are also frozen.

According to the EU foreign ministers, seven people who will be on the sanctions list had a role in the forced landing of the Ryanair plane carrying journalist Protasevich. Among those imprisoned are the Belarusian Minister of Transport and the Minister of Defense. In addition, eight Belarusian organizations can no longer access their assets in the European Union.

The United States has also announced new sanctions. Sixteen Belarusians and five organizations have been put on the US sanctions list. These include the KGB security service and the Okrestina prison in Minsk, where several well-known Belarusian opposition figures are imprisoned and where torture takes place.

Economic measures

The European ministers also want the measures to affect the Belarusian potassium and fertilizer industry, the oil industry and the financial sector.

The sanctions follow the arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofa Sapeg. They were on board a Ryanair plane en route from Greece to Lithuania at the end of May when it was directed by the Belarusian regime to the capital Minsk. The pair are still in custody. The action sparked outrage among European leaders.

Tighten thumbscrews

“The intention is to further tighten the thumbscrews for the regime,” says outgoing Minister of Foreign Affairs Kaag (D66). “Anyone in a position of power and influence must be affected.”

According to her, things “do not look hopeful” in Belarus at the moment. According to Kaag, any relaxation of the sanctions will only be on the agenda if the country releases all political prisoners and allows room for democratisation. She also believes that repression and oppression must end. “That requires quite a total change, and I don’t see this regime doing that at the moment.”

Lukashenko not welcome either

The EU has already imposed punitive measures against Belarus on several occasions in the past year. President Lukashenko, other members of the government, senior members of the judiciary and several business officials have been placed on the sanctions list. After the hijacking of the Ryanair flight, the EU also decided to ban Belarusian airlines from European airspace.

EU leaders still have to formally agree to the sanctions. That is expected to happen later this week.

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