EU extends sanctions on Belarus after opposition crackdown hardens

Brussels - European Union foreign ministers decided to extend a sanctions package against Belarus on Monday, reacting to a hardening crackdown by that country's regime against opposition figures.

The EU reinstated a travel ban and asset freeze against Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko and over 100 associates in January, after protesters against the outcome of elections on December 19 - including opposition candidates - were beaten up and arrested.

'An additional 19 Belarus officials will be included in the lists of persons subject to restrictive measures,' a statement said as EU ministers were meeting in Brussels.

The decision was taken after some of the opposition leaders and civil society representatives arrested in December were handed down long sentences, and in the wake of reports of torture against detained dissidents.

'Such developments represent a further worsening of the human rights situation in Belarus and are in utter contradiction with respect for core international commitments endorsed by Belarus,' EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Friday.

The travel ban and asset freeze is set to enter into force on March 22, when the names of the 19 Belarusian officials will be published on the EU's official journal.


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