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The EU Is Preparing To Sanction Belarus, Europe’s ‘Last Dictatorship’ — Here’s Why

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at November 10, 2021

Topline

The European Union is set to agree to sanctions against Belarus Wednesday in response to the escalating crisis on the country’s border with EU member state Poland, where thousands of migrants are stranded in freezing conditions — after being enticed there with the false promise of easy entry to the EU, according to Western officials.

Key Facts

Reuters reported that the EU is planning to sanction roughly 30 Belarusian individuals and organizations, including the country’s foreign minister and the national airline Belavia.

It comes as a spokesperson for the EU’s executive brand, the European Commission, described the tactics of Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime as “inhuman and really gangster-style.”

Poland, the EU and United States all blame Belarus for pressuring the bloc with the inflow of migrants from parts of the Middle East and Asia, in response to Western sanctions following last year’s fraudulent presidential election and subsequent crackdown by Lukashenko, as well as the detention of a journalist in May — claims his government has denied.

Belarus has reportedly made visas available upon arrival in contrast to stricter entry measures for other European countries, enticing many to try their luck crossing into the EU from there.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued a statement Wednesday saying Lukashenko was “cold-bloodedly” holding those seeking refuge “​​hostages in a cynical play for power,” and that the EU should “expand and tighten” sanctions against his regime.

Big Number

Eight. That’s at least how many people have died in recent months while stuck on the border with Poland. Many there are refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa seeking shelter in Europe. While access on the ground is limited for independent journalists, reports have emerged of desperate children and families struggling in sub-zero conditions, with limited access to food and water. The migrants are met by thousands of border guards “in full battle gear” with snarling attack dogs, some of whom allegedly beat and robbed them. “Some migrants we saw had their faces sliced with barbed wire,” from the border fence, one volunteer aid worker told The Guardian.

Key Background

Belarus has been described as “Europe’s last dictatorship.” Russian-backed Lukashenko is the continent’s longest-serving ruler and has been in power since 1994. He cracked down severely on protesters who took to the streets after last year’s widely disputed election, with at least a thousand people arrested. He garnered further international condemnation earlier this year when Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega were detained after the Ryanair plane they were on was forced to land in the country.

What To Watch For

According to Reuters, the planned EU sanctions could be approved as early as next week.

Further Reading

Exclusive: EU close to deal on new round of Belarus sanctions, diplomats say” (Reuters)

What you need to know about the Poland-Belarus border crisis” (Washington Post)

Belarus migrants: EU accuses Lukashenko of gangster-style abuse” (BBC News)

EU condemns Belarus’s ‘gangster-style’ tactics in Polish border crisis” (The Guardian)

On the frozen frontiers of Europe with the migrants caught in a lethal game” (The Guardian)

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