EU to Slap New Sanctions on Belarus 06/21 06:11
BRUSSELS (AP) -- European Union foreign ministers will approve Monday a
fresh set of sanctions against scores of officials in Belarus and prepare a
series of measures aimed at hurting the country's economy, EU foreign policy
chief Josep Borrell said.
The EU has ratcheted up sanctions since President Alexander Lukashenko won a
sixth term last August in elections slammed as fraudulent by the 27-nation
bloc. The measures have targeted people accused of electoral misconduct and
responsibility for the police crackdown that followed.
But the EU has tightened ranks further since Belarus' authorities forced a
Ryanair plane to land in Minsk last month and by what appears to be the use of
migrants to pressure Lithuania, which has provided safe-haven to opposition
figures and is one of Lukashenko's most vocal critics in Europe.
"We will approve the package of new sanctions, which is a wider package,"
Borrell told reporters in Luxembourg where he was chairing the ministerial
meeting. He said asset freezes and travel bans will be slapped on a total of
around 86 people and organizations.
Diplomats have said that a number of those targeted are linked to the May 23
incident that saw a Ryanair flight traveling from Greece to Lithuania diverted
to Minsk, where authorities arrested Raman Pratasevich, a dissident journalist
who was on board the airliner.
The EU has already banned Belarus airline companies from flying over the
bloc's territory or using its airports.
Borrell said the ministers will also prepare a raft of economic sanctions
for EU leaders to endorse at a summit on Thursday. "These are going to hurt,
going to hurt the economy of Belarus heavily," he said.
The measures are likely to include action against the export of potash -- a
common fertilizer ingredient -- tobacco industry exports and petroleum
products, among others.
"We will no longer just sanction individuals. We will now also impose
sectoral sanctions -- meaning that we will now get to work on the economic
areas that are of particular significance for Belarus and for the regime's
income," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.
"We want to make very, very clear to Lukashenko that there is no going
back," Maas said.
Maas said the 27 EU countries stand united on sanctions "We are really very,
very determined not to budge, not just today -- nothing about this will change
in the coming weeks and months," he said.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said EU countries had
thought only a month ago that it still might be possible to reason with
Lukashenko but that "the mood is different now."
Landsbergis accused Minsk of "weaponizing" migration flows. He said around
500 people are sheltering in Lithuania, most from Iraq, and that Belarus border
guards brought 30 refugees to the border in recent days. He said Lithuania has
limited capacity for them and is building a tent camp.
To kick-off Monday's meeting, the ministers held a working breakfast with
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition candidate to challenge Lukashenko
in last year's election.