Baltic states to hit Lukashenko, other Belarus officials with sanctions

VILNIUS (Reuters) – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will announce travel sanctions on about 30 Belarus officials, including President Alexander Lukashenko, later on Monday, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told reporters.

The sanctions are aimed at officials the Baltic nations accuse of rigging presidential elections earlier this month and playing a role in violence against protesters calling for an end to Lukashenko’s 26-year rule.

Lukashenko, a key ally of Moscow, denies electoral fraud and has said the protesters are backed from abroad.

Nauseda told reporters the list was a first step and could be expanded later.

“We said that we need peaceful dialogue and agreement between the regime and society, but we see that the regime is not ready for that,” Nauseda said. “We see that we need to move forward and to show an example to other countries.”

The European Union has been working on its own list of individuals in Belarus to target with similar sanctions.

The three small Baltic states, two of which border on Belarus, have led calls within Europe for strong action to support the opposition in Belarus. Lithuania has been hosting opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who fled there after an Aug. 9 election her supporters say she won.

Tens of thousands of protesters once again took to the streets in central Minsk on Sunday, seeking to keep up pressure on Lukashenko to resign. At least 140 people were detained, Russia’s RIA news agency reported, citing the Belarusian Interior Ministry.

Lukashenko threatened on Friday to cut off European transit routes across his country in retaliation against any sanctions.

Goods from landlocked Belarus account for almost a third of Lithuania’s rail traffic and port volume. Belarus is also a major overland route for European goods bound for Russia, and carries pipelines used to ship Russian oil to Europe.

President Vladimir Putin has invited Lukashenko to Moscow, seen as a sign the Kremlin is willing to back his hold on power.

Source: Read Full Article