The European Union has imposed asset freezes and travel bans on 158 Belarusian government officials and other individuals who are deemed involved in election frauds and a post-election crackdown on political opponents.
At their meeting in Brussels on Monday, the EU’s 27 foreign ministers renewed the travel ban on 41 government officials, including Alyaksandr Lukashenka, which was suspended in October 2008, and added 117 new names to the travel ban list.
Among the new individuals who will be persona non grata in the EU are the two adult sons of Mr. Lukashenka, Viktar and Dzmitry; Uladzimir Makey, head of the Presidential Administration; Uladzimir Andreychanka, chairman of the House of Representatives; Vadzim Zaytsaw, chief of the Committee for State Security (KGB); Prosecutor General Ryhor Vasilevich; Defense Minister Yury Zhadobin; Leanid Maltsaw, state secretary of the Security Council; 24 heads of election commissions of various levels; 30 judges; and 10 journalists dubbed "Lukashenka propagandists."
However, the EU stopped short of imposing economic sanctions against the Belarusian government, as called for by Sweden and Poland, because other member countries did not want to make the people of Belarus pay.
"The release and rehabilitation of all people detained on political grounds would be an essential element" to any future decision to lift the sanctions, the ministers said in a joint statement.
A number of ministers at the meeting, especially those from Belarus’ neighboring countries suggested that the sanctions be matched with moves to make life easier for the Belarusian opposition and non-governmental organizations.
"We should adopt and pass strict measures on official people, and ... we should take the political decision on the fast opening of the European borders to Belarusian civil society," Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis said.
The ministers decided to compromise on this issue, agreeing that each member state should start by looking at ways to ease Belarusians' access to national visas, and look towards EU-wide visa facilitation in the longer term.
Meanwhile, the bloc is also "working on measures to provide urgent support to those repressed and detained on political grounds and their families, as well as support to civil society," the ministers said.