EU agrees new Belarus sanctions targeting Lukashenko

Restrictive measures follow a continued crackdown by security forces against protesters.

EU agrees new Belarus sanctions targeting Lukashenko

EU ambassadors on Wednesday approved sanctions against a second list of 15 Belarusian officials, including President Alexander Lukashenko, who the bloc accuses of election fraud and repression.

The sanctions, which aim to support anti-government protesters in Belarus who have been met with violence from security forces, are set to be published in the EU’s Official Journal on Friday, two EU diplomats said. The restrictive measures include travel bans and asset freezes.

Lukashenko, who has been in power for 26 years, claims to have won a contested August 9 election with 80 percent of the vote, but the EU has made clear that it does not accept the result and does not recognize Lukashenko as the legitimate president of the country.

Last month, Brussels slapped sanctions on a group of 40 Belarusian officials, after waiting nearly two months to take action because Cyprus demanded that the EU also bring in tougher measures over Turkish behavior in the Mediterranean Sea. The stalemate triggered a warning from the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell that the EU’s credibility was “at stake.”

The new set of sanctions, which were first discussed by EU foreign ministers on October 12 following a continued crackdown on regime-critical protests, was approved much faster.

Borrell said in October the new sanctions had become necessary because of the violence and a “complete lack of will from Lukashenko’s side to engage in negotiations.”

Lukashenko had been previously targeted by EU sanctions but they were lifted in 2015.