Seven European countries that are not members of the EU have aligned themselves with the sanctions imposed by the 27-member bloc on Belarus in response to a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests triggered by a disputed presidential election in August.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement on November 20 that the seven countries included EU candidates North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Albania, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Ukraine.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has ruled Belarus for 26 years, has faced almost daily protests calling for his resignation since the August 9 presidential election, which the opposition says was rigged and the West has refused to recognize.
Several protesters have been killed and thousands of people arrested since authorities declared the Belarusian strongman the landslide winner of the vote. There have also been credible reports of torture during a widening security crackdown.
Most of the country’s opposition leaders have been arrested or forced to flee the country, while dozens of reporters have been incarcerated, including contributors to RFE/RL’s Belarus Service.
The EU has slapped visa bans and asset freezes on Lukashenka and more than 50 senior officials over their roles in the crackdown on protests and the rigging of the vote.
Noting that previous measures failed to halt repression in Belarus, Borrell said on November 19 that the EU foreign ministers agreed to expand the bloc’s sanctions to include “institutions, entrepreneurs, and firms.”
The European Commission is also recommending the EU scale back cooperation with Belarus, including in trade, justice, and security. Exceptions are made in areas such as the environment, nuclear safety, and civil society.
Meanwhile, the Baltic EU states — Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia – added 28 Belarusian individuals to their own blacklists already containing Lukashenka and more than 100 officials, AFP reported on November 20.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told the French news agency that Belarusian Information Minister Ihar Lutski, who is blamed for Internet shutdowns to prevent protests, was among those newly blacklisted.
Sports Minister Syarhey Kavalchuk was also sanctioned for putting pressure on athletes who have spoken out against Lukashenka.