German Foreign Minister Says EU Economic Sanctions Against Belarus “Inevitable”

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German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has called for sweeping economic sanctions against Belarus ahead of an EU meeting to discuss further measures against the regime of authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

“I think further sanctions against Belarus are inevitable,” Maas said in an interview with Die Welt newspaper published on June 21.

“We should extend the sanctions to certain parts of the Belarusian economy, such as the potash industry or the energy sector. And we should deny the government in Minsk the possibility of raising funds within it. ‘EU by issuing government bonds,’ he said.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on June 21 will discuss new measures agreed by experts tasked with crafting sanctions against Belarus in response to the forced landing of a Ryanair flight last month in Minsk and the arrest of an opposition activist who was on board.

Even before the incident, the EU was considering new sanctions following the months-long crackdown on the opposition by the Lukashenka regime following disputed elections last August.

The previous rounds of sanctions hit individual institutions and the Lukashenka inner circle.

If EU governments are politically accepted, the latest round of sanctions would include a ban on new loans, EU investors from trading in securities or buying short-term bonds, from banks in the EU to provide investment services and EU export credits, Reuters reported last week.

Diplomats said EU experts also agreed to tighter restrictions on the bloc’s exports of weapons and equipment that can be used to quell protesters.

The proposal to sanction Belarusian state-run industries including potash, a major Belarusian export, as well as restrictions on tobacco, petroleum and petroleum-related products is seen as an important measure that will tighten fiscal screws around of the plan.

On May 23, Belarusian authorities dispatched a military plane to escort the passenger flight over its airspace to land in Minsk in what many countries consider “state hijacking.” After the plane landed, law enforcement immediately arrested opposition blogger Raman Pratasevich and his Russian girlfriend, Sofia Sapega.

The EU has already responded to the hijacking of the Ryanair flight between two member states by blocking Belarusian airlines from EU airports and airspace. The European aviation regulator has also urged other airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace.

The EU, the United States and other countries refuse to recognize the official result of the elections last summer and do not regard Lukashenka as the legitimate ruler of the country.

Opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who says she won the election, called on the West to apply broad sanctions against the Belarusian regime.

With reports from AFP and Reuters



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