German Foreign Minister Says EU Economic Sanctions On Belarus ‘Unavoidable’

By: - June 20, 2021

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

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

“We should extend the sanctions to parts of the Belarusian economy, such as the potash industry or the energy sector. And we should deprive the government in Minsk of the possibility to raise funds within the EU by issuing government bonds,” he said.

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

Even before the incident, the EU was considering new sanctions over the monthslong crackdown on the opposition by the Lukashenka regime in the wake of a disputed election last August.

Previous rounds of sanctions hit individual institutions and Lukashenka’s inner circle.

If agreed by EU governments at a political level, the latest round of sanctions would include a ban on new loans, on EU investors from trading securities or buying short-term bonds, on EU banks from providing investment services, and on EU export credits, Reuters reported last week.

Diplomats said EU experts also agreed on tighter restrictions on exports from the bloc of arms and equipment that can be used to crack down on demonstrators.

The proposal to sanction Belarus’s state-run industries including potash, a major Belarusian export, as well as restrictions on tobacco, oil, and oil-related products is considered a significant move that will tighten the fiscal screws around the regime.

On May 23, Belarusian authorities scrambled a military jet to escort the passenger flight over its airspace to land in Minsk in what many countries regard as a “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 diversion of the Ryanair flight between two member states by blocking Belarusian airlines from EU airports and airspace. Europe’s aviation regulator also has urged other airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace.

The EU, the United States, and other countries refuse to recognize the official result of last summer’s election and do not consider Lukashenka to be the country’s legitimate leader.

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

With reporting by AFP and Reuters