As the EU imposes more sanctions, Belarus’ Foreign Minister denounces a “economic war.”
More sanctions against Belarusian officials were imposed by the European Union on Thursday, and the country’s foreign minister said the moves would harm ordinary people and “border on declaring an economic war.”
The Belarusian ministry also threatened to take punitive action against foreign firms.
The EU issued travel bans and asset freezes on 78 officials on Monday, as well as freezing the assets of eight “entities,” which are often banks, corporations, or associations. The EU has imposed restrictive measures on 166 people and 15 entities in Belarus. Britain, the United States, and Canada have all imposed penalties on senior Belarus officials.
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The EU imposed economic penalties on Belarus on Thursday in reaction to a “escalation of significant human rights breaches” in the country, including the incarceration of journalist Raman Pratasevich.
The sanctions are directed at President Alexander Lukashenko and his allies, as well as the economy.
Pratasevich, a dissident journalist, was detained on May 23 after Belarusian air traffic controllers forced a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania to land in Minsk.
Potash, a common fertilizer element, tobacco sector exports, and petroleum products are among the industries targeted by the penalties announced on Thursday.
The EU said in a statement that trade in petroleum products, potassium chloride (‘potash,’) and commodities used in the production or processing of tobacco products is limited. Sales of equipment and software that can be used to monitor the internet and phone calls are also prohibited to Belarus under the sanctions.
Belarus’ access to EU capital markets has been restricted, and payments from the European Investment Bank to the country’s public sector have been blocked.
Since Lukashenko, labeled Europe’s last dictator, won a sixth term in August in allegedly rigged elections, the EU has increasingly tightened sanctions.
Since the Ryanair incident and over the country’s alleged use of migrants to pressure neighboring Lithuania, which has provided a safe haven to Belarusian opposition activists and is one of Lukashenko’s most vocal opponents, the 27-nation bloc has taken a stronger stance.
The economic measures approved on Thursday were also mentioned by the foreign ministries. Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, said they would target “economic areas of great importance to Belarus and the dictatorship.” This is a condensed version of the information.