EU Blacklists 21 Belorussian Officials
The European Union (EU) announced it has added the names of 21 Belarusian officials to its blacklists, citing a recent surge in repression in the former Soviet country.
The EU said it froze those individuals assets and banned them from traveling to the 27 member countries because they were “responsible for the crackdown on civil society,” according to a statement issued yesterday.
The 21 names are in addition to 200 Belarusian persons and companies already blacklisted, which includes three companies linked to President Alexander Lukashenko, who Western human rights groups call “Europe's last dictator.”
The EU also has an arms embargo on Belarus and exports of “material for internal repression” are also banned.
The sanctions will be enacted Wednesday once they are printed in the body’s Official Journal.
Belarus reacted by sending home ambassadors from Poland and the EU from Minsk, and bringing home its envoy to Brussels.
EU Foreign Policy head Catherine Ashton reacted by recalling all EU ambassadors in a tit for tat measure.
“In an expression of solidarity and unity, it was agreed that the ambassadors of the EU Member States in Minsk will all be withdrawn for consultations to their capitals,” she said in a news release.
“All EU Member States will also summon Belarusian ambassadors to their foreign ministries.”
Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt reacted to the news via Twitter, writing “Lukashenko throws out ambassadors of EU and Poland. Dictator starts burning the last bridges. Normally does not end well.”
Lukashenko has been president of Belarus since 1994, ruling with an autocratic style.
Not among the 21 new members of the blacklist club is Ukrainian businessman Yuri Chizh, who Slovenia pulled from the sanctions list. Chizh is considered close to Lukashenko.
Poland and other EU countries are furious over Slovenia’s support for Chizh, who they say controls a Slovenian construction company, the Riko Group, which was just awarded a €100 million construction contract to build a large residential and office complex including a luxury Kempinski hotel in Minsk’s city center. They say Slovenia is protecting him in their economic interest.
“Hope guests at the Kempinski, Minsk, will spare a thought for the Belarus political prisoners who rot in jail so that they are comfortable,” Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister, wrote on Twitter.