EU plans to expand Belarus crackdown sanctions to businesses

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union plans to prepare a new round of sanctions against Belarus that will target businesses, the EU’s foreign policy chief said Thursday as a security crackdown on protesters continues in the ex-Soviet nation.

European foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after a meeting of the bloc’s foreign affairs ministers that EU member nations agreed in principle on the extra measures as a response to the “brutality of authorities.”

More than 17,000 people have been detained — thousands of them brutally beaten — since the Aug. 9 presidential election in Belarus, human rights advocates have reported. Over the past three months, the country has been rocked by mass anti-government protests that were sparked by official election results that gave authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term in office.

The EU has already imposed sanctions on Lukashenko and more than 50 officials over their role in the protest crackdown. Noting that the repression by Lukashenko’s government has not stopped, Borrell said the new set of sanctions should not only target individuals but also “institutions, entrepreneurs and firms.”

Borrell did not elaborate on the sanctions but said that they could have an impact on “the developing of a normal economic activity.”

Opposition leaders and some poll workers in Belarus say the presidential election results were manipulated. Protesters have been calling for Lukashenko’s resignation.

“Member states consider that there is no positive sign at all from Lukashenko’s regime, which continues to refuse to engage in any kind of discussion with the EU,” Borrell said. “In these conditions, the EU has to react using the tools that we have. Sanctions are one of these tools.”

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