UK imposes new economic sanctions on Belarus

Measures target Minsk’s potash, petroleum, aviation and banking sectors

Belarus sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya 'so happy' to reach safety in Poland

The UK has slapped Belarus with new economic sanctions as part of wider efforts to increase pressure on the autocratic regime of Alexander Lukashenko.

The measures, which were announced on Monday, target the country’s profitable potash and petroleum sectors as well as its aviation industry. Under the updated rules, Belarusian airlines will not be allowed to fly over or land in the UK, while assistance cannot be offered to private jets owned by Mr Lukashenko.

The latest in a line of Western sanctions, the British government’s move also affects Belarusian state-owned banks, as it forbids the purchase of shares and treasury bills issued by them.

The clampdown follows Mr Lukashenko’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, who complain that last August’s election was rigged in favour of the long-serving leader.

Along with the US, the EU and Canada, the UK imposed travel bans and asset freezes on Belarusian officials in June, after the Lukashenko regime hijacked a Ryanair flight, forcing it to land in Minsk so that two passengers - the journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega - could be arrested.

Announcing the UK’s most recent response, the British foreign secretary Dominic Raab said: “These sanctions demonstrate that the UK will not accept Lukashenko’s actions since the fraudulent election. The Lukashenko regime continues to crush democracy and violate human rights in Belarus.”

“The products of Lukashenko’€™s state-owned industries will not be sold in the UK, and our aerospace companies will not touch his fleet of luxury aircraft,” he added.

The UK said that the US would also introduce new measures against the Belarusian regime on Monday, exactly a year on from the country’s disputed presidential election.

In response to the UK’s new sanctions, Mr Lukashenko, who has cosied up to Russia over the past year, said Britain can “choke on them”. At the same time, however, he told Western leaders to negotiate with him rather than ramp up their sanctions.

Earlier on Monday, he denied allegations that he is an autocrat, dismissing “those nasty things” Western nations accuse him of doing.

Since last August, the world has watched his regime crack down violently on protesters and arrest hundreds of opposition supporters, leading many to flee into exile.

The exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who visited Boris Johnson last week, has said further sanctions should be used against Mr Lukashenko.

“The regime is not ready to change its behaviour. I think a new wave of sanction measures have to be imposed on the regime because they don’t understand another language,” she said. “Sanctions are not a silver bullet, but they will help stop the repression.”

Recent repression includes the reported attempt to force Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, 24, to fly back home from the Tokyo Olympics. After seeking protection from Japanese police at Haneda airport, she was offered a visa by Poland.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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