- The sanctions will also apply to 29 other senior officials close to him.
- According to the European Union, Belarus' elections were neither free nor fair.
- Russia has supported Lukashenko, and blamed the protests on western interference.
The three Baltic states of the European Union— Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania— have imposed travel bans on neighboring Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. The sanctions were imposed in response to the alleged rigging of the August 9 presidential election and subsequent crackdown on public protests.
The sanctions will also apply to 29 other senior officials close to him. Within the European Union, Belarus’ Baltic neighbors have been most critical of President Lukashenko’s alleged “dictatorial” rule.
“We are giving a clear signal that such actions are not acceptable and that those responsible for such acts are not welcome in Latvia,” the country’s foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, told the Baltic News Service. ”We call upon the European Union to promptly proceed with similar decisions.”
The Last Dictatorship in Europe
President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled the former Soviet state since 1994. In those 26 years, President Lukashenko has won six elections, almost completely eliminating his opponents.
In the August election, he received 80.1 percent of the vote, according to official results, while his rival, Sviatlana Tsikhanoskaya, received only 10.2 percent. According to observers, as in the past, fraud was resorted to in many places.
“New people will be added to the list in the future.” said Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda.
“With these sanctions, we are demonstrating that we are addressing the human rights violations in Belarus with utmost seriousness,” his Estonian counterpart, Urmas Reinsalu, told BNS. “At the same time, we consider it important not to punish the people of Belarus.”
Election or Selection?
According to the European Union, Belarus’ elections were neither free nor fair. The UK has rejected the results. French President Emmanuel Macron said the European Union should openly support anti-government protests.
German Finance Minister Olaf Schulz called President Lukashenko a “dictator” who he said had lost public trust.
Other EU countries are also in favor of imposing sanctions on President Lukashenko’s close associates and senior officials. More than 100,000 people have taken part in the “Independence March,” and the dictatorial power of the President is in danger
Accused of External Interference
The current crisis is being described as the biggest challenge to President Lukashenko’s long rule. In such a situation, his biggest support is from the President of Belarus’ traditional ally, Russia. Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin have held several consultations over the past few weeks. President Lukashenko has accused his western neighbors of encouraging anti-government protests.
Moscow has backed President Lukashenko’s stance and warned that Russia could activate a military alliance of six former Soviet countries, including Belarus, if Western nations do not stop “intervening.”
EU Considers Increasing Pressure
The European Union imposed sanctions against President Lukashenko several years ago, but relaxed them in 2016.
In August, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hinted that the money the European Union had allocated to the Belarusian government would now be used to help civil society, government action, and the coronavirus epidemic.