Tuesday

1st Dec 2020

EU to announce 'harder, faster' Belarus sanctions

  • Lukashenko has also imposed counter-sanctions against EU officials (Photo: Natalia Rak/Flickr)

EU foreign ministers are to announce a third round of sanctions against Belarus on Thursday (19 November), amid lethal regime violence.

Some 20 EU states' diplomats spoke out in favour of "a strong message" by the foreign ministers at an internal meeting in Brussels earlier on Monday, and no one favoured a soft approach, one EU diplomat told EUobserver

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There were "no fundamental changes since the last introduction of sanctions," a senior EU official said.

"We expect a green light [for further sanctions] on Thursday", another EU diplomat told this website.

"The case [of Roman Bondarenko] accelerated the decision," the diplomat added, referring to a 31-year old opposition activist, who was murdered by plain-clothes police last week.

The new sanctions were expected to target "at least" 20 individuals with visa-bans and asset-freezes, an EU source said.

"It will be a comprehensive package, including many categories of people, in order to send a clear political message," the source noted.

"There's no point in waiting because the situation is getting worse. We have to hit harder and faster," the source added, predicting that the new measures will enter into force by mid-December.

The EU has already blacklisted Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko, his son Viktor, and more than 40 of his security chiefs, following three and a half months of mass protests after rigged elections in August.

The reference to "many categories of people" in the latest measures comes after Belarus opposition leaders urged Europe to also target oligarchs who bankroll the regime.

Meanwhile, "the number of arrests of peaceful demonstrators is nearing 30,000," the EU embassy in Minsk said on Tuesday.

And there is "no indication that the authorities are investigating the thousands of reports of police brutality filed since mid-August or the killings of protesters," it added.

The violence has included rape of men and women in detention, torture, and beatings so severe that they have left victims permanently disabled.

And Lukashenko has stuffed his inner circle with "siloviki" - intelligence and military bosses - in a sign that he is not intending to back down, according to Artyom Shraibman, an expert at the Carnegie Moscow Centre, a think tank.

"By involving all the security services in the crackdown, Lukashenko is bonding them to him with a shared fear for their safety in the event that the protesters win," Shraibman said.

"When everyone is implicated, no one thinks of going over to the other side," he added.

Lukashenko has also imposed counter-sanctions against EU officials, in a sign that he is not interested in talking to Europe.

But "they [Belarusian authorities] are not publishing them anywhere and will be imposing them at their own discretion, upon [attempted] entry of EU citizens [to Belarus]," the senior EU official said.

EU blacklists Lukashenko and his eldest son

The EU has imposed a visa-ban and asset-freeze on president Alexander Lukashenko and his son, due to the "gravity of the situation" in Belarus after rigged elections in August.

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New EU sanctions to hit Belarusian oligarchs

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