Third-time-inaugurated President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has been banned from entering the European Union, along with 30 figures prominent in his power aparatus. Minsk retaliated to the EU move saying it would apply similar measures.
The EU sanctions were in response to what it has said were flagrantly rigged March 19 presidential polls.
The decision came from EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg. Slovenia’s Dimitri Rupel said: “We want to keep the people of Belarus on our side so we would like to cultivate relations with people of the opposition naturally, intellectuals, students, young people, people who are innocent – and interesting people of course. I think this will be a step in the right direction.”
Alexander Milinkevich, the nearest rival to Lukashenko in the elections, called for hundreds more officials to be put on the banned list when he spoke at the European Parliament last week, but he argued against economic sanctions. Western countries have long accused the veteran Lukashenko of running the “last dictatorship in Europe”, crushing all dissent. Protesters held a vigil in Minsk on Sunday night in solidarity with those who have suffered from the authorities’ anti-opposition crackdown. The EU did not freeze the assets of the banned individuals for now but warned it may do so next month.