The EU has said it does not rule out adding more people to its Belarus sanctions list so long as repression continues, quality Belgian news source EUobserver reports.
“The release of two political prisoners [Andrey Sannikau and Zmitser Bandarenka – Belsat] has not put the ball in the EU’s court. The ball remains in Minsk … We could probably broaden the number of people on the travel ban,” Gunnar Wiegand, a senior official in the European External Action Service (EEAS) told press in Brussels on June 18,2012.
Over 240 persons loyal to the unsavory regime of Aliaksandr Lukashenka are currently forbidden from entering the EU or doing business there. The European black list includes Uladzimir Peftsiyev and Yuri Chyzh, two oligarchs said to be the President’s bag-men, as well as an embargo on arms to Belarus and on goods that could be used for internal repression.
According to Gunnar Wiegand, Aliaksandr Moshensky, who runs a food and restaurant business called JV Santa Impex Brest, is a prospective candidate for being blacklisted by the EU. He took an active hand in Lukashenka’s 2010 presidential election campaign and is said to rank as the number three most influential tycoon.
Gunnar Wiegand visited Belarus in February 8-10, 2012. He met with Deputy Foreign Minister Siarhei Martynau, opposition activists, political prisoners’ relatives and EU diplomats. Mr. Wiegand is of the belief that the sanctions are effective: “The fact that we keep up the pressure on the government may very well have contributed to the release of some of the 23 political prisoners”.
At the least estimate, there are 13 political prisoners in Belarus. Among those still behind bars is human rights defender Ales Bialiatski sentenced to 4.5-year confinement for alleged large-scale tax evasion. and opposition activist Siarhei Kavalenka, whose crime was planting a banned Belarus national white-red-white flag on top of a Christmas tree in Vitebsk.
In accordance with the words of Joerg Forbrig, an expert on Belarus at the Berlin-based NGO, the German Marshall Fund, that the sanctions have influenced decision making. Minsk, says Forbrig, released Sannikau and Bandarenka “to avert further and more painful EU measures.” He urged the EU to expand sanctions and to target Belarus oil exports.
Meanwile, in total, trade between the EU and Belarus increased by 69 percent in 2011 despite the political deep freeze, EUobserver says.