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EU to Slap New Sanctions on Belarus    06/21 06:11

   

   BRUSSELS (AP) -- European Union foreign ministers will approve Monday a 
fresh set of sanctions against scores of officials in Belarus and prepare a 
series of measures aimed at hurting the country's economy, EU foreign policy 
chief Josep Borrell said.

   The EU has ratcheted up sanctions since President Alexander Lukashenko won a 
sixth term last August in elections slammed as fraudulent by the 27-nation 
bloc. The measures have targeted people accused of electoral misconduct and 
responsibility for the police crackdown that followed.

   But the EU has tightened ranks further since Belarus' authorities forced a 
Ryanair plane to land in Minsk last month and by what appears to be the use of 
migrants to pressure Lithuania, which has provided safe-haven to opposition 
figures and is one of Lukashenko's most vocal critics in Europe.

   "We will approve the package of new sanctions, which is a wider package," 
Borrell told reporters in Luxembourg where he was chairing the ministerial 
meeting. He said asset freezes and travel bans will be slapped on a total of 
around 86 people and organizations.

   Diplomats have said that a number of those targeted are linked to the May 23 
incident that saw a Ryanair flight traveling from Greece to Lithuania diverted 
to Minsk, where authorities arrested Raman Pratasevich, a dissident journalist 
who was on board the airliner.

   The EU has already banned Belarus airline companies from flying over the 
bloc's territory or using its airports.

   Borrell said the ministers will also prepare a raft of economic sanctions 
for EU leaders to endorse at a summit on Thursday. "These are going to hurt, 
going to hurt the economy of Belarus heavily," he said.

   The measures are likely to include action against the export of potash -- a 
common fertilizer ingredient -- tobacco industry exports and petroleum 
products, among others.

   "We will no longer just sanction individuals. We will now also impose 
sectoral sanctions -- meaning that we will now get to work on the economic 
areas that are of particular significance for Belarus and for the regime's 
income," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

   "We want to make very, very clear to Lukashenko that there is no going 
back," Maas said.

   Maas said the 27 EU countries stand united on sanctions "We are really very, 
very determined not to budge, not just today -- nothing about this will change 
in the coming weeks and months," he said.

   Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said EU countries had 
thought only a month ago that it still might be possible to reason with 
Lukashenko but that "the mood is different now."

   Landsbergis accused Minsk of "weaponizing" migration flows. He said around 
500 people are sheltering in Lithuania, most from Iraq, and that Belarus border 
guards brought 30 refugees to the border in recent days. He said Lithuania has 
limited capacity for them and is building a tent camp.

   To kick-off Monday's meeting, the ministers held a working breakfast with 
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition candidate to challenge Lukashenko 
in last year's election.

 
 
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