Belarus threatens to retaliate against latest EU and US sanctions

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Belarus has threatened to retaliate against new sanctions from the European Union and the United States.

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus’ disputed president, said his country would not give in to Western pressure over the migrant crisis at the Polish border.

The EU, US, Canada, and the United Kingdom all slapped simultaneous sanctions on dozens of Belarusian officials, organisations, and companies on Thursday.

Brussels said the measures were taken in response to Belarus’ “hybrid attack” on the bloc using migrants.

Minsk has denied allegations that it has been accused of encouraging migrants to illegally enter the EU to destabilise the West.

President Lukashenko has faced sanctions ever since his disputed re-election for a sixth term in August 2020.

The EU previously sanctioned Belarus over Lukashenko’s security crackdown on peaceful protestors and arrest of a Belarusian journalist onboard a Ryanair flight.

On Thursday, the EU imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 17 more people, including senior border guards and military officials, government representatives, and judges.

The measures also hit state airliner Belavia and travel groups accused of helping to bring migrants to Belarus.

“Migrants wishing to cross the Union’s external border have been flying to Minsk onboard flights operated by Belavia from a number of Middle Eastern countries, in particular Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey,” the bloc said.

Also targeted was the state tourism company Tsentrkurort, which the EU claims helped at least 51 Iraqis obtain visas to Belarus and organised bus transport for them to the borders.

Foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU would not tolerate “the orchestrated and politically motivated instrumentalisation of human beings by the Lukashenko regime.”

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Britain also said it had imposed sanctions “on eight Belarusian individuals responsible for repression and human rights violations”. Meanwhile, the US said it had sanctioned 32 individuals and entities in Belarus.

Belarus’ Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the new sanctions aimed to “economically stifle Belarus [and] make the life of Belarusians as hard as possible”.

In a statement, it called the EU “the initiator of the sanctions spiral and aggression” and promised “harsh, asymmetrical” measures in response.

Lukashenko also told state media on Friday that he would not “kick out” western diplomats following the sanctions and said any such expulsions would be “civilised”.

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