It is not often that a country with an undesirable leader is subjected to such a broad international package of punitive measures. In a carefully prepared and coordinated action, the European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada imposed sanctions on Belarus on Monday against the ruler Alexander Lukashenko.
The Western powers all blacklisted (sometimes different) Belarusian officials and institutions. In addition, EU economic sanctions are almost complete. The heads of government must give them the last push at their summer summit in Brussels at the end of this week.
The increasing pressure on Minsk stems mainly from the’ hijacking ‘ (as EU foreign coordinator Josep Borrell called it) last month of the Ryanair aircraft in which journalist/activist Roman Protasevich was on his way from Athens to Vilnius. This was forced to land in Belarus, after which Protasevich and his companion Sofia Sapega were arrested.
78 individuals blacklisted
Since the beginning of this month, EU airspace has been closed to all Belarusian aircraft. The EU added 78 individuals and 8 institutions to the blacklist on Monday. Seven individuals and one institution are directly associated with the air pirate action with the Ryanair flight. The list now includes 166 individuals and 15 institutions. They may not enter the EU and their bank balances may be frozen.
The forthcoming economic sanctions include financial services, oil and tobacco products. Because of Austrian banking interests in Belarus, Vienna fought against these financial sanctions only last week, but in the end the Austrians were also persuaded.
” We need to tighten our thumbs after this heartless act of air piracy by the state, ” said Austrian minister Schaller in Luxembourg, where EU foreign ministers met.
Belarusian authorities would send migrants to Lithuanian border
Washington has put sixteen individuals and five institutions on the sanctions list for Minsk’s ‘escalating violence and repression’. “We are united in our deep concern about the ongoing attacks by the Lukashenko regime on human rights, fundamental freedoms and international law,” said a joint statement by the EU, the US, the UK and Canada. They call on Minsk to cooperate fully with the international investigation into the Ryanair incident of 23 May.
In Luxembourg, Lithuanian minister Landsbergis drew attention to Lukashenko’s apparent manipulation of migrants in response to EU sanctions. The Belarusian authorities would deliberately allow migrants to fly in from Baghdad, and immediately send them to the Lithuanian border upon arrival in Minsk. According to Landsbergis, thirty more migrants have entered illegally in the last few days, bringing the total to 500.