Foreign Ministers of EU to ban entry for 150 top state officials from Belarus

BRUSSELS, January 31 (Itar-Tass) - Foreign Ministers of EU member-states are expected to adopt a revised package of sanctions against Belarus as they hold a scheduled meeting in Brussels later Monday.

An EU source said the revisions concern, in part, the list of top-rank Belarussian officials who will be denied the right to entering the EU territory. It has increased to over 150 persons from about 50 in the previous version.

Also, the EU countries will freeze the bank accounts of all the blacklisted Belarussian government functionaries, should any of their accounts be tracked down in Europe.

In addition, the ministers will consider a freezing of financial assistance projects for Belarus in the format of the Eastern Partnership program.

The EU's main demand to the Belarussian government remains the "immediate and unconditional" freeing of all the detained oppositionists, whom the EU officials view as political prisoners.

The first time the EU introduced sanctions against Belarus was after the presidential election of March 2006. President Alexander Lukashenko and his closest associates were accused of systemic encroachments on the ordinary citizens' democratic rights and freedoms, repressions against the opposition and restrictions of the freedom of mass media.

The list of officials, whom the EU denied entry and the opening of bank deposits then, had forty names.

These sanctions were suspended in the fall of 2008 when the EU said it was going to open the doors for a dialogue with Belarus.

Subsequently, the EU Foreign Ministers prolonged the sanctions for twelve-months-long periods in the fall of 2009 and 2010. The prolongation was done in the stand-by mode so that the blacklisted Belarussian officials could get the entry visas when need be.

Following the December 19, 2010, presidential election and mass riots organized by the opposition in downtown Minsk, the European parliament issued a sharply worded resolution against Belarus and the EU's executive agencies warned that the sanctions against Minsk would be augmented.


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