Saskatoon StarPhoenix

West hits Belarus with new round of sanctions


BRUSSELS/WASHINGTON/ LONDON • Western powers hit Belarus with a wave of new sanctions on Monday in a coordinate­d response to Minsk's forced landing of a Ryanair plane last month to arrest a journalist on board.

Canada, the U.S., the European Union and Britain blackliste­d more officials, lawmakers and ministers from the administra­tion of President Alexander Lukashenko, whose air force intercepte­d the Ryanair plane flying between Athens and Vilnius on May 23 in what the West called state piracy.

“We are united in our deep concern regarding the Lukashenko regime's continuing attacks on human rights, fundamenta­l freedoms, and internatio­nal law,” the EU, the U.S., Britain and Canada said in a statement.

“We are united in calling for the regime to end its repressive practices against its own people,” they said.

In Monday's mix of travel bans, asset freezes and sanctions on state-owned Belarusian companies, Western government­s sought to escalate their pressure on Lukashenko, who is accused of rigging elections last August and cracking down on the opposition to prolong his now 27 years in power.

There was no immediate reaction from Lukashenko who has denied rigging the vote, accused the arrested journalist Roman Protasevic­h of plotting a revolution, and increasing­ly turned to Russia for support.

The EU included Russian businessma­n Mikhail Gutseriyev, the largest single foreign investor in Belarus, in its sanctions.

The latest round of sanctions since last year's disputed elections takes the EU'S tally of Belarusian lawmakers, officials, judges and military commanders to 166 people, including 78 who were blackliste­d on Monday.

Britain, the United States and Canada added individual­s to their sanctions lists, although it was not immediatel­y clear if those now blackliste­d in Belarus are all subject to the same travel bans and asset freezes across all countries.

The U.S. said it hit people with top jobs in the Lukashenko government including the ministry of internal affairs and the ministry of informatio­n. The EU targeted Defence Minister Viktor Khrenin, the transport minister and the air force commander, as well as judges, lawmakers and officials.

Britain's sanctions on Monday included measures against London-registered BNK (UK) Ltd, which negotiates contracts for exports of Belarusian oil products.

While individual sanctions have not had the impact the West has sought, the EU hopes that economic sanctions under preparatio­n can hit Lukashenko hardest.

 ??  ?? Alexander Lukashenko
Alexander Lukashenko

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