Lukashenko May Face More EU Sanctions After Crackdown

Germany’s top diplomat said the European Union may expand a planned blacklist of Belarusian officials as President Alexander Lukashenko’s forces continued to crack down on demonstrations against his 26-year rule.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who hosts EU counterparts in Berlin on Thursday, said a preliminary blacklist of 15 to 20 Belarusian officials deemed responsible for the crackdown may not go far enough. The EU hasn’t disclosed the identities of those on the list, which involves asset freezes and travel bans.

“We’ve determined that the announcement of these sanctions – and we’ve formally brought them forward – has not led to any change in behavior in Belarus,” Maas told reporters. “So this will be about whether we might have to go further in order to raise the pressure on Belarus and Lukashenko.”

Several foreign ministers said the group would discuss placing Lukashenko himself on the list.

“My personal opinion is that Lukashenko surely deserves that,” Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu told reporters when asked about whether Lukashenko should be on the list.

Still, additional measures against Belarus may face EU division elsewhere. Greece and Cyprus face resistance in the EU in their calls for sanctions against Turkey, while the Mediterranean island’s government signaled it may scupper action against Minsk if its demands aren’t met.

“We are not in favor of double standards,” Cyprus’s foreign minister, Nikos Christodoulides, responded when asked whether blocking Belarus sanctions was on the table. “It’s very important also to protect the credibility of the European Union.”

Demonstrations against Lukashenko have brought scores of people to the streets of the capital Minsk and other cities, demanding that he step down. Anti-government activists have been placed in custody, including strike organizers in some of Belarus’s largest factories and an opposition figure on the activists’ coordinating council.

Last weekend, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in and around Independence Square in Minsk, despite the presence of riot police and barbed-wire barricades. The Belarusian leader made a demonstration of flouting the protests, appearing on state television brandishing an automatic rifle as he flew into his residence by helicopter.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.