By Eurasia Business News – June 21, 2021

The Council of the European Union has decided to impose sanctions against 78 Belarusian individuals and eight organizations due to the situation with human rights in Belarus. The EU decision entered into force on June 21.

This decision was made in connection with the escalation of the situation with serious violations of human rights in Belarus and the harsh repression of civil society, democratic opposition and journalists,” according to an official press release published on the EU website.

These EU sanctions target the Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin, the Minister of Transport and Communications Alexei Avramenko and the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Belarus Nikolai Karpenkov. The European Union considers that these officials have infringed human rights.

In addition to them, members of the family of President Alexander Lukashenko, fell under the sanctions. His son Dmitry Lukashenko and his daughter-in-law Liliya Lukashenka, are targeted by the restrictive measures, for directly benefiting from being in the inner circle of the President to do business, according to the European Union.

The EU sanctions on Belarus has also targeted the Russian businessman Mikhail Gutseriev, known for being the founder and a shareholder of the Russneft oil company that provides Belarus with crude. Moreover, Gutseriev owns the mining company Slavkaliy that started in 2017 to build a potash complex in Belarus worth USD 2.1 billion. The Russian oligarch also controls the Safmar and Slavneft fueling stations and oil depots as well as a luxury hotel Renaissance in Minsk. The European Union considers Mikhail Gutseriev as a “long-time friend of Alexander Lukashenko”.

The sanctions provide for the freezing of assets of persons included in the sanctions lists, as well as a ban on entering or transiting through EU territories.

EU citizens and companies are forbidden from making funds available to those listed.

The EU is also imposing sanctions on the two largest Belarusian machine-building enterprises – the OJSC Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ) and the Belarusian Automobile Plant (BelAZ). MAZ is one of the biggest state-owned automotive manufacturers in Belarus. BelAZ is one of the largest manufacturers of large trucks and large dump trucks in the world. It is a source of significant revenue for the Belarusian State. Also, sanctions are being introduced against the newly created oil trader in Belarus, the New Oil Company (NOC), and four other companies.

“The goal of these sanctions is to put pressure on the Belarusian political leadership to initiate a genuine and inclusive national dialogue with broader society and to avoid further repression”, reports the official press release.

Thus, a total of 166 individuals and 15 organizations are now under the sanctions imposed by the EU against Belarus.

The decision on restrictive measures was published in the Official Journal of the European Union and entered into force.

The individuals and entities targeted by the EU sanctions have the possibility to file a claim against these restrictive measures before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. (See Court of Justice, judgment of 28 July 2016, case C-330/15 P, Johannes Tomana and Others v. Council and Commission)

The EU foreign ministers met in Luxembourg on Monday to discuss action to be taken in the wake of the plane diversion, by the government of President Alexander Lukashenko. The ministers meeting in Luxembourg have discussed large-scale measures intended to hit the Lukashenko regime “in the wallet”. EU leaders will also tighten restrictions on exports from the EU of arms and equipment that can be used to quell protesters.

International pressure on Belarus increased after that the authorities of this former Soviet Republic sent a fighter jet on May 23 to intercept a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania. The plane was forced to land in Minsk and Belarusian authorities arrested a dissident, Roman Protasevich, and his partner Sofia Sapega who were on board. In response, the EU has already blocked Belarusian airlines from entering the Union and carriers from its 27 member states from using Belarusian airspace. On Monday, EU ministers are also expected to approve sanctions on 80 Belarusian dignitaries (asset freeze, visa ban).

The Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been facing since May 2020 regular demonstrations in Minsk, gathering citizens opposed to his decision to run for the 2020 Belarusian presidential election. The election day was held on August 9, 2020. Alexander Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory, with 80.23% of the votes, while the opponent Svetlana Tsikhanovskaya would have received 9.9%. She is the wife of the Belarusian blogger Sergei Tikhanovsky, arrested on May 29 and charged with plotting mass riots.

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