The European Union imposed its toughest sanctions yet on Belarus on Thursday, taking aim at petroleum and tobacco-manufacturing products plus potash – three sectors that the bloc sees as lining the pockets of Alexander Lukashenko’s government.
Access to EU capital markets is also to be restricted, an EU press release announcing the implementation of the measures stated.
EU banks can no longer sell insurance or re-insurance to Belarusian government or public bodies, according to the press release, and the European Investment Bank is to stop transferring funds to public sector projects. Trading in certain surveillance technology or software to anyone in Belarus is also prohibited.
EU foreign ministers signed off on the move earlier this week.
It is the bloc’s latest response to Belarusian authorities’ ongoing crackdown on pro-democratic forces following a contested August 2020 election, as well as the forced diversion of a Ryanair flight to detain a government critic and his girlfriend last month.
The EU already adopted several packages of sanctions targeting Lukashenko’s supporters last year, as well as the president himself.
Then, shortly after the flight incident, the bloc sealed off its airspace to carriers from its eastern neighbour.
The 66-year-old Lukashenko has led Belarus – a former Soviet republic in Eastern Europe bordering EU states Poland, Lithuania and Latvia – for more than a quarter of a century, tolerating little dissent.