Following August’s controversial presidential election result, the EU has imposed sanctions on a number of Belarussian officials.
The election, which saw a disputed victory for incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko, has seen numerous allegations of election fraud. The EU’s sanctions affect 40 officials, for “misconduct of the electoral process”. Sanctions include a travel ban within EU member countries and an asset freeze which will make funds from EU companies and citizens unavailable to the listed individuals. Lukashenko is notably absent from the EU’s list but is subject to separate sanctions by the UK and Canada.
The officials were also accused of “repression and intimidation” against the media, peaceful protestors, and opposition politicians. An EU source explained that: “The EU sanctions regime is based on specific reasons and legal grounds — in the case of Belarus it’s for breaches of rights of the population, disrespect for citizens’ fundamental freedoms and for election fraud,”
Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, supported the sanctions, saying “The European Union is now taking action against those who are opposing democratic movements.”. Charles Michel, EU Council president, said that the EU believes “the people of Belarus have the right to determine their own future.”
Belarus has since imposed its own sanctions in retaliation, though the list of EU officials affected has not been published. In a statement, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said “Belarus is always in words and in fact against confrontation. We are for dialogue and understanding. But as a sovereign state, we are also determined, albeit not without regret, to respond to unfriendly actions in order to naturally protect our national interests.” They have accused the EU of “striving towards the deterioration of relations with us.”