EU sanctions Lukashenko for crackdown on Belarus protests

Belarus president, son and 13 officials will be banned from entering EU territory and will have their assets frozen.

Lukashenko claimed victory in the election but tens of thousands of opposition protesters have since taken to the streets in a wave of protests [File: Maxim Guchek/AFP]

The European Union (EU) has slapped sanctions on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and 14 other officials for repression of the pro-democracy movement following August’s contested election.

The asset freezes and travel bans were implemented on Friday following an EU ambassadors’ agreement earlier this week that came in response to “violent repression and intimidation of peaceful demonstrators, opposition members and journalists”, according to a press release.

Lukashenko’s son and national security adviser, Viktor, is among those targeted by the new measures.

Among the others hit with sanctions are Lukashenko’s chief of staff, the head of the country’s KGB secret service and the president’s press officer.

The EU rejected the results of the August 9 election and said it does not regard Lukashenko as the legitimate president.

Mass protests rocked the former Soviet republic following the contentious August 9 presidential election that protesters alleged was rigged.

A report looking into the election and subsequent crackdown by authorities, published by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Thursday, said human rights abuses “were found to be massive and systematic and proven beyond doubt”.

The vote was “not transparent, free or fair” and it recommended the result to be annulled “due to irregularities at all stages of the process”, urging Belarus to “organise new genuine presidential elections based on international standards”.

Lukashenko claimed victory in the election but tens of thousands of opposition protesters have since taken to the streets in a wave of protests. The interior ministry last week said it arrested some 300 people.

The 66-year-old leader, who is backed by Russia, was initially spared from inclusion on the EU blacklist imposed early last month on 40 officials accused of fraud and rights abuses.

Diplomats had feared that adding his name to the list could exacerbate the crisis. Belarusian officials have repeatedly accused the EU of interfering in their domestic affairs.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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