Baltic states impose sanctions against Belarus ahead of EU

World

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko listens to Valiantsin Sukala, head of the Supreme Court of Belarus during their meeting in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. (Nikolai Petrov/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — The three Baltic countries on Monday slapped their own travel sanctions on 30 top officials in Belarus, including President Alexander Lukashenko, in response to a brutal crackdown against protesters who say the Aug. 9 presidential election in Belarus was rigged.

The move comes as the European Union is planning its own sanctions list of up to 20 senior Belarus officials suspected of election fraud and the crackdown on protesters and is likely to put Lukashenko on that list at some point. All three Baltic nations are members of the EU.

“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.”

Those on the Baltics list are banned from entering Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, according to the document signed by the three Baltic nations’ interior ministers. The travel ban includes individuals from the Belarus president’s office and administration, the central election commission, the Interior and Justice ministries and the general prosecutor’s office.

“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.”

Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist for 26 years, has faced weeks of protests since he was re-elected to a sixth term on Aug. 9 with what officials say was 80% of the vote. The opposition says the poll was rigged, and both the EU and the U.S. say the election was neither free nor fair.

Last week, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry proposed sanctions against 118 individuals suspected of involvement in brutal crackdowns on protesters demanding Lukashenko’s resignation and 30 of them are suspected of vote-rigging in Belarus. The two other neighboring Baltic countries were working on similar plans.

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