Belarus punished as the West reacts to the migrant crisis at the EU border

The state airline of Belarus, sovereign debt and a wide range of companies and individuals affected by punishment on Thursday as part of a coordinated Western response to Minsk’s coordination of a migration crisis on its border with the EU.

Brussels said it would punish Belavia airline for “helping to incite and organize illegal border crossings through Belarus to the EU”. Officials say the bloc is ready to go further if autocratic president Alexander Lukashenko doesn’t stop the flow of people to his border.

The US Treasury Department said it would ban transactions related to new issues of Belarusian sovereign debt on the primary and secondary markets, as well as the addition of 20 Belarusian individuals – including his second son. two of Lukashenko, Dzmitry – and 12 entities to the sanctions list.

Meanwhile, the UK has announced sanctions against eight individuals and announced an asset freeze on Belaruskali, a state-owned potash producer that is one of the main sources of foreign currency. for Lukashenko’s regime.

From Minsk use migrants, most of which have flown in from Middle Eastern countries like Syria and Iraq, to ​​put pressure on eastern EU members this summer has become a broader European problem, as people crossing borders to other countries. western countries such as Germany and contributed to an increase in the number of people trying to cross the English Channel into the UK.

In a joint statement, the EU, US, UK and Canada demanded that Mr Lukashenko’s regime “immediately and completely stop coordinating illegal cross-border migration with the EU”.

They said: “Those in Belarus or in third countries who facilitate illegal crossings beyond the EU’s external borders should know that this comes at a significant price.

Although the number of people trying to enter the EU through Belarus has been sink Since the bloc stepped up pressure on airlines last month, thousands of people remain stranded in Belarus as the icy winter in Eastern Europe begins.

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, said the latest round of sanctions was a response to Belarus’ oppression of its people, undermining security in Europe and the “abuse” of “those who seek only to live in freedom”.

“The migration crisis is just the latest example of [Lukashenko] brutal repression by the regime and blatant disregard for international norms,” he said.

“It is unjustly holding nearly 900 political prisoners, with some serving time in prison for fabricated charges for more than a year, while others are serving lengthy prison sentences for their crimes. exercise their fundamental freedoms.”

US sanctions on Belarus’ state debt follow similar moves in June by the EU, UK, Canada and Switzerland.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s head of foreign policy, said Thursday’s sanctions were “another example of our determination to act when human rights are violated”.

As well as Belavia, EU sanctions include Syria’s Cham Wings airline, Belarus’ state tourism agency, Tsentrkurort, two Minsk hotels and various border officials.

The US sanctions also target Tsentrkurort, as well as defense and security companies and the potassium sector, and identify three planes as frozen assets.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry issued the EU sanctions, saying it would respond with “tough, asymmetrical, but adequate measures”.

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