Belarus announces ‘counter sanctions’ against EU

MINSK (AFP) – Minsk said yesterday it was introducing counter sanctions on the European Union (EU) after the bloc adopted measures against members of the Belarus regime following President Alexander Lukashenko’s disputed re-election.

“In connection with visa sanctions adopted by the EU against a number of Belarusian officials, the Belarusian side from today is introducing a list of reciprocal sanctions,” Belarus’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

EU leaders earlier yesterday gave their approval for travel bans and asset freezes on some 40 members of Lukashenko’s regime they deemed responsible for rigging the August 9 election and the subsequent violent crackdown on protests.

Unlike Britain and Canada, which already sanctioned Belarus officials, the EU will not be imposing measures on Lukashenko himself.

Belarus’ Foreign Ministry said by imposing sanctions “the EU has alienated” the country and denounced the 27-country bloc’s move as a “punitive measure”.

Minsk said it would not disclose which European officials were being targetted in its counter sanctions and threatened “even more serious consequences” if the EU expands its restrictions.

Belarus ally Russia criticised the EU penalties, describing the move as a sign of political weakness.

“In general we are very, very negative about the sanctions policy… this is more a manifestation of weakness than strength,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Protesters have taken to the streets of Belarusian cities since Lukashenko claimed a sixth term with 80 per cent of the vote.

Riot police detained thousands of protesters many of whom reported torture and abuse in custody, prompting international condemnation.