Sat, 24 Jul 2021

EU actions seek to 'tighten thumbscrews' on Belarus

Robert Besser
23 Jun 2021, 20:30 GMT+10

BRUSSELS, Belgium: The European Union will expand travel bans and the freezing of asset of 86 Belarusian individuals and companies on Monday.

The sanctions are part of the EU response to the forced landing of a Ryanair passenger plane in Minsk on May 23 to arrest a dissident journalist.

Officials said the new actions by the EU foreign ministers will blacklist Belarusian transport, defense and air traffic officials.

Additional economic sanctions against Belarus are planned that would "tighten the thumbscrews" on President Alexander Lukashenko, said Austrian officials.

"Today we will approve the package of new sanctions, which is a wider package, about 86 people and entities," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters.

Also, following a Friday agreement, EU states are preparing to impose economic sanctions on Belarus' financial, oil, tobacco and potash sectors.

Belarus remains one of the world's top exporters of potash, an essential chemical used in fertilizers. The EU imported $1.5 billion of chemicals, including potash, from Belarus in 2020. It also imported over $1 billion in crude oil, fuel and lubricants from Belarus.

Belarus is also dependent upon loans from European commercial and development banks.

"We have to tighten the thumbscrews after this callous action of state air piracy," Austria Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told reporters.

"We want to hit the state-affiliated economic sector, those responsible, not the people in Belarus, who are suffering anyway."

Lukashenko has remained in power for 27 years and is accused of rigging the presidential election in August 2020 and imprisoning pro-democracy protesters.

The forced landing of a May Ryanair flight to arrest journalist Roman Protasevich and his student girlfriend Sofia Sapega, has unified the usually divided EU into action.

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