European Union member states have agreed to slap sanctions on Alyaksandr Lukashenka, along with 14 other Belarusian officials, in response to a brutal crackdown on postelection protests.
The green light to impose visa bans and asset freezes on Lukashenka and the 14 others was given by envoys from the EU’s 27 member states on November 4 and should be confirmed in the bloc’s official journal on November 6, sources say.
Lukashenka has been under pressure from constant demonstrations following a disputed presidential election nearly three months ago that the opposition says was rigged and the West has refused to accept.
Belarus’s 66-year-old strongman was initially spared inclusion in the EU asset freezes and travel bans imposed last month on 40 Belarusian officials for their alleged role in the repression of protesters and the opposition, as well as fraud during the August 9 vote.
But in mid-October, EU foreign ministers gave the go-ahead in principle to prepare a new sanctions package that would include the embattled leader himself.
AFP reported that the EU is also targeting Lukashenka’s son Viktar, who is an acting national-security adviser in Belarus.
Thousands of people have been arrested across Belarus since authorities declared Lukashenka the winner of the August election to give him a sixth consecutive term.
Most of the country’s opposition leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country, including presidential candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who considers herself the rightful winner of the vote.
Lukashenka is “responsible for the violent repression by the state apparatus before and after the 2020 presidential elections,” according to the sanctions decision seen by AFP.
He is also being held responsible for the exclusion of opposition candidates in the vote, “arbitrary arrests and the ill-treatment of peaceful demonstrators, as well as intimidation and violence against journalists.”
The EU has denounced the August election as “neither free nor fair” and refused to recognize Lukashenka as Belarus’s legitimate president.
Tsikhanouskaya told Current Time in a Skype interview on November 4 that Lukashenka’s previous term was set to officially end on November 5, bringing an end to any legitimacy he could claim as a leader of the country.
“Lukashenka is losing the last element of legitimacy on November 5. And if some countries may still believe that he still has some kind of legitimacy, that now it is over too,” she said
“We see how the regime is disintegrating before our very eyes; mistakes are being made. And you all know that only together we will win,” Tsikhanouskaya added.
Speaking from EU-member Lithuania, where she has been living since shortly after the election following threats to her and her family, the opposition leader called on foreign leaders to give their “maximum support to the Belarusian people.”
“I would like democratic countries to pay even more attention to how human rights in Belarus are infringed upon, on the violence taking place in our country. And that they talk about it and take all possible appropriate measures,” she added.