EU to slap new sanctions on Belarus, target its economy

BRUSSELS — European Union foreign ministers will approve Monday a fresh set of sanctions against scores of officials in Belarus and prepare a series of measures aimed at hurting the country’s economy, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

The EU has ratcheted up sanctions since President Alexander Lukashenko won a sixth term last August in elections slammed as fraudulent by the 27-nation bloc. The measures have targeted people accused of electoral misconduct and responsibility for the police crackdown that followed.

“We will approve the package of new sanctions, which is a wider package,” Borrell told reporters as he arrived in Luxembourg to chair the ministerial meeting. He said asset freezes and travel bans will be slapped on a total of around 86 people and organizations.

Diplomats have said that a number of those targeted are linked to an incident last month in which a Ryanair flight traveling from Greece to Lithuania was diverted to Minsk, where authorities arrested Raman Pratasevich, a dissident journalist who was on board the airliner.

The EU has already banned Belarus airline companies from flying over the bloc’s territory or using its airports.

Borrell said the ministers will also prepare a raft of economic sanctions for EU leaders to endorse at a summit on Thursday. “These are going to hurt, going to hurt the economy of Belarus heavily,” he said.

The measures are likely to include action against the export of potash – a common fertilizer ingredient – tobacco industry exports and petroleum products, among others.

“We will no longer just sanction individuals. We will now also impose sectoral sanctions — meaning that we will now get to work on the economic areas that are of particular significance for Belarus and for the regime’s income,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

Maas said the 27 EU countries stand united on sanctions “We are really very, very determined not to budge, not just today — nothing about this will change in the coming weeks and months,” he said.

To kick-off their meeting, the ministers held a working breakfast with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition candidate to challenge Lukashenko in last year’s election.

Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.