Saturday

23rd Jan 2021

EU blacklists Lukashenko, as lethal force threatened

Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko is going back out into the cold after the EU decided to blacklist him on Monday (12 October).

The decision came as diplomats gave up hope he might stop attacking peaceful pro-democracy protesters after two months of violence.

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There was "complete lack of will from Lukashenko to engage in any kind of communication" for a gentle outcome to the crisis, EU foreign relations chief Josep Borrell said in Luxembourg after meeting with EU foreign ministers.

The EU already sanctioned Belarus' interior minister and 39 officials earlier this month.

The move was delayed by a Cypriot veto, in Nicosia's cry for attention over its maritime dispute with Turkey.

But Borrell said he did not expect any similar problems in adding Lukashenko, as well as further names, to the Belarusian blacklist from now on.

"All member states accepted this proposal" and EU officials would soon draw up the relevant legal acts, Borrell noted.

"Yes. I'm confident [there would be no new veto]," he added.

"I think the structural obstacle for the implementation of these sanctions has been overcome," he said.

Lukashenko was already under an EU asset-freeze and visa-ban between 2011 and 2016.

He is believed to have salted away a personal fortune in excess of $1 billion (€850m), according to Valery Tsepkalo, a leading opposition activist who spoke to EUobserver.

Lukashenko visited Austria last year in a rare trip to an EU country.

But he more often travels to Serbia, Switzerland, or the United Arab Emirates, lending Monday's EU sanctions a symbolic quality.

Death threat

His security forces have so far used water cannon, stun grenades, arrests, beatings, and torture to try stop people coming out onto the streets.

And they were given the green light to fire live ammunition in future on Monday, as the EU ministers met.

"On behalf of the interior ministry, I say that we will not leave the streets and will guarantee the law in the country. Law enforcement personnel and interior troops will use special equipment and lethal weapons if need be," Belarusian deputy interior minister Gennady Kazakevich said in a video statement.

"This has nothing to do with civil protests. We're confronted not just by aggression, but by groups of militants, radicals, anarchists, and football hooligans," Kazakevich claimed falsely.

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