this illustrates the viciousness of the coordinated US-EU-UK-canada sanctions against belarus

West tightens Belarus sanctions to make Lukashenko regime ‘run dry’
Jennifer Rankin, Groan, Jun 21 2021

Lukashenko attends a defence meeting in Shklov last Wednesday. Photo: Pavel Orlovsky/AP

Western countries have extended sanctions against Belarus, with a pledge to make Alexander Lukashenko’s regime “run dry”, following last month’s forced landing of a Ryanair flight to arrest a dissident. In a coordinated move against Lukashenko, the UK, US, EU and Canada announced travel bans and asset freezes on senior Belarusian officials and entities that bankroll the regime as a punishment for the arrest of the activist and journalist Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, who were detained after being hauled off a flight from Athens to Vilnius. EU foreign ministers agreed to add 86 people and entities to the bloc’s sanctions list while the UK announced it was imposing sanctions on seven individuals and one entity linked to the illegal forced landing of the Ryanair flight, as well as four people and one entity implicated in human rights abuses. The US Treasury Dept (OFAC – RB) said it was freezing any US assets and barring any transactions with 16 individuals and five entities including Lukashenko’s press secretary, Natalia Mikalaevna Eismant. Going one step further, EU ministers also endorsed a plan for sanctions targeting the Belarusian economy, in an attempt to intensify pressure on Lukashenko’s regime. Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, tweeted:

We will no longer only sanction individuals but also areas of the economy which are important to the regime. We want to make Lukashenko’s regime run dry financially.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters:

Sanctions are a way of putting pressure on the government of Belarus and these are going to hurt. These are going to hurt the economy of Belarus heavily. They will be approved after consideration of the European Council.

The EU leaders meet for a two-day summit on Thursday. Officials are working on sanctions to hit Belarus’s export industries, including oil, tobacco and potash, which is a big source of foreign currency for Belarus. In a bid to further choke off funding to Lukashenko’s regime, EU banks will also be banned from offering loans or investment services. Broad agreement on economic sanctions was established last Friday, after EU member states dropped final objections. Austria, which has banking interests in Belarus, rejected reports it had been blocking a deal, arguing it wanted to ensure sanctions did not hurt the Belarusian people. Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg said:

We want to hit the state-affiliated economic sector, those responsible, not the people in Belarus, who are suffering anyway. We have to tighten the thumbscrews after this callous action of state air piracy.

The latest sanctions on 78 individuals and eight entities are the fourth round of restrictive measures the EU has imposed on Belarus, since Lukashenko embarked on a brutal crackdown to stay in power after disputed elections last August. The UK government said it was sanctioning BNK UK Ltd, an exporter of Belarusian oil products and promised “further measures targeting specific sectors of the Belarusian economy.” Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said:

We will hold the regime to account in co-ordination with our allies including through further banning travel, freezing assets and cutting off oil export revenue streams.

British-based companies, including British American Tobacco and Rolls-Royce are among the UK-based firms they have said they are willing to take action over their business interests in Belarus, following pressure from Belarusian dissidents. The EU and UK have banned their airlines flying over Belarus, since the arrest of Pratasevich. The Belarusian opposition is worried for the dissident’s safety after a series of appearances on state TV and at press conferences, where he has praised Lukashenko. Svetlana Tsikhanovskaya, the opposition leader, has said it was evident Pratasevich was speaking under pressure. She said:

He’s been taken hostage in an act of state terrorism.

Meeting EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday morning, Tsikhanovskaya brought a bullet she said had been extracted from the lung of a young activist hurt during the crackdown on peaceful protesters last August. She wrote on Twitter:

I wanted to show ministers what risks activists-journalists face on a daily basis in Belarus.

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