Wednesday

25th May 2022

Russian beachhead Belarus hit with sanctions

  • Belarus leader Alexandr Lukashenko was himself sanctioned in 2020 for the violent crackdown of protests following his rigged presidential election (Photo: tut.by)
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Belarus was hit with a wave of European Union sanctions on Wednesday (2 March) for supporting Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.

The sanctions target 22 top-ranking military officials the EU say played a role in the Russian attack on Ukraine.

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They include aides to the Belarus defence minister, top defence ministry officials, the deputy commander of the Belarusian air force, and other top commanders in the military.

Belarus is supporting the Russian military aggression against Ukraine by allowing Russia to fire ballistic missiles from the Belarusian territory and facilitating the transport of Russian military personnel and heavy weapons, the bloc said.

Minsk is also allowing Russian military aircraft to fly over Belarusian airspace into Ukraine while providing refuelling points for the Russian and storing Russian weapons and military equipment, it said.

Alexander Lukashenko, the strongman-ruler of Belarus, unlike his ally Russian president Vladimir Putin, was not hit in this latest round of EU sanctions. He has denied his military is involved in the Russian attack on Ukraine.

But Lukashenko, in power for the past 28 years, already is under an EU asset freeze and travel ban for his violent crackdown on protests in August 2020 following fraudulent elections.

Belarus now is seen by the western allies as a key threat in the Russian war in Ukraine.

Part of the Russian forces, now massed on the outskirts of Ukraine's capital Kyiv, began their journey in Belarus.

A move last weekend by Belarus to permit Russia to station nuclear weapons on its territory also has alarmed the western allies.

The sanctions imposed Wednesday will target sectors including wood, steel, iron, cement, tobacco, and potash, an important ingredient in fertilisers and the country's main export.

Belarus will also not be able to import dual-use goods and certain advanced technology from the EU that might contribute to its military, technological, defence and security systems.

The EU has imposed a series of sanctions on Belarus, including in 2020, after the rigged election, and then in 2021, after Belarus forced down a Ryanair flight to detain a dissident journalist.

Later that same year, Minsk was sanctioned for pushing thousands of primarily Iraqi migrants across the border to Poland.

Last month, there were yet more EU sanctions, imposed during the Russian military build-up in Belarus.

Taking into account the moves on Wednesday, EU sanctions on Belarus now affect a total of 225 people.

Too early to 'de-escalate' Belarus crisis, says EU official

EU senior officials say Belarus needs to do much more than move migrants and asylum seekers into a shelter. They want UN aid agencies to have unhindered access to people stranded in Belarus. Poland is still refusing any humanitarian aid.

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