Tag Archives: Lukashenko

EU towards Belarus targeted sanctions

Brussels 09.06.2021 “…It is certainly the right moment to talk about Belarus. Belarus is again at the very top of the international agenda for the events that everybody knows and the continued repression by Lukashenko’s regime” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said, while addressing the Members of the European Parliament.

“This repression has been strongly condemned, as much as the massive human rights violations, which continue unabated since the past elections in August 2020, almost one year ago.

“The recent events are related with the hijacking of a European Union airplane flying between two European Union capitals, and forcing it to land in Minsk, with the intervention of a fighter jet, which is an act that overstepped many red lines. Not only it has jeopardised the security of over 100 passengers, but it has also challenged international rules relating with air transportation. The subsequent arrest of a young Belarusian journalist [Raman Pratasevich] as well as his partner [Sofia Sapega] is an abhorrent act. Their forced confessions on state television is another example of the flagrant violations of basic human rights that Lukashenko’s regime commit. It was certainly awful to watch these images of these people detained, crying and recognising in front of the state television like he has been committing I do not know how many crimes against Belarus. Believe me, it was a shameful image.

“We had to respond decisively against these images, against these facts, and already the day after the hijacking of the Ryanair flight, the European Council met, brought up this issue on the agenda and took decisions.

“The European Council called for additional sanctions, and for the first time they decided to include targeted economic sanctions. Until now all our sanctions [vis-a-vis Belarus] are usually taken on a personal basis, affecting individuals and entities, but not the whole economy of the country. This time the Council requested to take targeted economic sanctions.

“The Council also requested that all European Union-based air carriers avoid overflights of Belarus.

“It called also for adopting the necessary measures to ban overflight of the European Union airspace by Belarusian airlines and prevent access to European Union airports of flights operated by such airlines. And I can tell you that these measures have already been adopted last week and I will give you some details about it.

“Listings of individuals and companies, including those involved in the Ryanair incident, are well on track for adoption and they will be adopted by written procedure in the following days.

“As mandated by the European Council, and together with the Commission, we have started [preparing] targeted economic sanctions as the Council requested. They will be adopted at the next Foreign Affairs Council, I hope that the technical work will be finished and it will be affecting critical sectors of the Belarusian economy. But the final decision belongs to the Member States; I hope they will be united on that.

“In the meantime, we will continue to address the human rights violations in international fora. Let us not forget that there are now, we calculate, almost 450 political prisoners in Belarus. This group includes journalists arrested for simply doing their jobs – informing, students, representatives of civil society and ordinary citizens who protested against their freedoms and rights being taken away by the regime.

“We have been contributing to the establishment of mechanism to hold the perpetrators of human rights violations responsible and we will continue to support the victims and look for the accountability of perpetrators.

“We have published a plan for a €3 billion economic and investment package in support of a democratic Belarus, sending a message of hope and support to the people of Belarus, showing the prospects for a more prosperous country once they come back to a democratic system. This should be a strong incentive for economic development, should the country change. This €3 billion economic plan will support it. This is a way of proving that we stand with the Belarusian people, and we will continue doing so in the future…”

Lisbon: Informal meeting of EU top diplomats

Brussels 27.05.2011 “We are going to discuss about Belarus today, for sure. It is only two days after the [EU] leaders took important decisions on Belarus and we are going to discuss how to implement the decision of going to economic and sectorial sanctions to Belarus. This is going to be an important issue on our meeting.
(Image above: Lisbon, Portugal)

But we are going to talk also about the European Union-Africa Partnership, about the Indo-Pacific Strategy and about the conflicts in our Eastern Neighbourhood, which are affecting our security.

So we have a lot of issues on the table.

We will start by Belarus, the hijacking of the plane and the detention of two passengers is something that is completely unacceptable. And we will start discussing the implementation of the sectorial and economic sanctions.

That is all I can tell you. Keep in mind: Indo-Pacific, European Union-Africa partnership, Belarus and the conflicts in our Eastern Partnership [region].

Also, during the lunch, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Jordan [Ayman Safadi] will join us and we will take stock of the situation in the Middle East, especially the situation of the conflict between Israel and Palestine after the ceasefire”.

EU Foreign Affairs Ministers (Gymnich) hold an informal meeting, on 27 May 2021, in Lisbon. The meeting is chaired by Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Belarus: EU bans flights

25.05.2021 European Council strongly condemns the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk, Belarus, on 23 May 2021 endangering aviation safety, and the detention by Belarusian authorities of journalist Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega.

The European Council:
– demands the immediate release of Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega and that their freedom of movement be guaranteed;

– calls on the International Civil Aviation Organization to urgently investigate this unprecedented and unacceptable incident;
– invites the Council to adopt additional listings of persons and entities as soon as possible on the basis of the relevant sanctions framework;
– calls on the Council to adopt further targeted economic sanctions and invites the High Representative and the Commission to submit proposals without delay to this end;
– calls on all EU-based carriers to avoid overflight of Belarus;
– calls on the Council to adopt the necessary measures to ban overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines and prevent access to EU airports of flights operated by such airlines;
– stands in solidarity with Latvia following the unjustified expulsion of Latvian diplomats.
The European Council will remain seized of the matter.

Borrell demands release of Protasevich

Brussels 24.05.2021 Belarus: Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU on the forced diversion of Ryanair flight FR4978 to Minsk on 23 May 2021:

“On 23 May, the Belarusian authorities, in an inadmissible step, forced a civilian plane to perform an emergency landing in Minsk. The plane, owned by an EU company, flying between two EU capitals and carrying more than 100 passengers, was forced to land by a Belarusian military aircraft.

“One of the flight passengers, Mr Raman Pratasevich, an independent journalist from Belarus, was retained by the Belarusian authorities and prevented from boarding the plane at the Minsk airport to its original destination. This is yet another blatant attempt by the Belarusian authorities to silence all opposition voices.

“We call for the immediate release of Mr Pratasevich.

“In carrying out this coercive act, the Belarusian authorities have jeopardised the safety of passengers and crew. An international investigation into this incident must be carried out to ascertain any breach of international aviation rules.

“This situation will be raised at the upcoming meeting of the European Council. The EU will consider the consequences of this action, including taking measures against those responsible”.

Opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, 26, was traveling by commercial airline from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, when the Belarusian air force landing by a fighter jet MiG29. The flight, on Irish airline Ryanair, was diverted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where the millennial opposition figure was taken into custody.

Protasevich is a co-founder and a former editor of the NEXTA online channel on the social media platform Telegram, which has become a popular communication medium for Lukashenko’s opponents to share information and organise demonstrations against the government.

The journalist fled the Belarus in 2019, fearing arrest, and imprisonment, but he has continued to criticise Lukashenko’s regime while living in exile in Lithuania, so much so that he was charged in absentia with public disorder and social hatred in November last year.

As a teenager, Protasevich became a dissident, first drawing scrutiny from law enforcement. He was expelled from a prestigious school for participating in a protest rally in 2011 and later was expelled from the journalism program of the Minsk State University.

The government’s main security agency in Belarus, called the KGB, placed Protasevich’s name on a list of terrorists. If he is accused and convicted of terrorism, he could face the death penalty.

The charges of inciting public disorder and social hatred carry a punishment of more than 12 years in prison.

Belarus: Borrell demands investigation

Brussels 24.05.2021 Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell called for an international investigation after Belarus forced a Ryanair passenger jet to land in Minsk, in an apparent effort to arrest an activist journalist.
“In carrying out this coercive act, the Belarusian authorities have jeopardised the safety of passengers and crew,” Borrell said in a statement issued on Monday, May 24, the following day after the incident.

“An international investigation into this incident must be carried out to ascertain any breach of international aviation rules,” the statement went on.

The Belarusian Transport Ministry on Monday announced it had set up a commission to carry out its own investigation into the forced landing and would publish the results soon, according to a report by the Russian RIA news agency.

EU to discuss incident at summit
The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, said EU leaders will discuss the incident at an EU summit beginning on Monday, adding that the affair would not remain “without consequences.”

Michel called on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release the detained passenger – the 26-year-old journalist Roman Protasevich who worked for Poland-based online news service NEXTA, which broadcast footage of protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (pictured) last year during presidential elections mass protests.

An EU spokesman said the leaders would discuss “possible sanctions” on Belarus. High-level officials in the country have already been sanctioned by the bloc over the brutal repression of the opposition, protesters and journalists following disputed elections in August 2020. More than 34,000 people have been arrested in the country since August, and thousands have been brutally mistreated.

Protasevich was traveling by commercial airline RyanAir from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, when the Belarusian air force sent a fighter jet. The flight, on Irish airline Ryanair, was diverted and escorted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where the millennial opposition figure was taken into custody.

Protasevich was returning to Vilnius from an economic conference in Greece with Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Greek officials said.

The flight, which had been carrying some 170 passengers, should have taken about three hours. As it approached the border between Belarus and Lithuania, a MiG-29 fighter jet was scrambled to intercept it.

Lukashenko, who is often referred to as “Europe’s last dictator,” personally ordered the fighter jet MiG29 to escort the Ryanair plane to the Minsk airport after a bomb threat alert, his press service said. According to the statement, Lukashenko, an ally of President Vladimir Putin of Russia, gave an “unequivocal order” to “make the plane do a U-turn and land.”

EU: Belarus “inadmissible” act

Brussels 24.05.2021 European governments accused Belarus of engaging in an act of state terrorism after it forced a commercial jetliner Ryanair to make an emergency landing in Minsk after a purported bomb threat and then arrested an opposition blogger critical of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Raman Pratasevich, a former editor of the influential Telegram channels Nexta and Nexta Live, was detained by police after his Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was diverted over Belarusian airspace when the Minsk government said Lukashenko ordered his military to scramble a MiG-29 fighter to escort the plane.

“I’m facing the death penalty here,” a trembling Pratasevich was reported to tell a fellow passenger before Belarusian police led him away.

The Minsk government has accused Pratasevich of terrorism and provoking riots after the Nexta channels became one of the main conduits for organizing last year’s anti-Lukashenko protests over election fraud.

Lukashenko won his sixth term in the August election with a claimed 80% of the vote, although many in the country accused him of widespread corruption in the election.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the Irish passenger jet had been hijacked and accused Lukashenko of a “reprehensible act of state terrorism.” Morawiecki said he would demand new sanctions against Belarus at a European Council meeting on Monday.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, “We are coordinating with our allies. This outlandish action by Lukashenko will have serious implications.”

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda wrote on Twitter, “Unprecedented event! The regime is behind the abhorrent action. I demand to free Roman Protasevich urgently!”

Pratasevich was flying from Athens to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, when the plane was diverted to Minsk.

The head of NATO has joined the leaders of several EU countries in demanding an investigation into the diversion on May 23 of a Lithuanian-bound flight to Minsk, where authorities arrested one of its passengers, opposition activist and journalist Raman Pratasevich.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance was closely monitoring the “forcible landing” of the flight from Athens to Vilnius in Belarus and the reported detention of Pratasevich.

“This is a serious and dangerous incident which requires international investigation. Belarus must ensure safe return of crew and all passengers,” Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter micro blog.

Ryanair said the flight arrived safely in Vilnius on May 23 after a delay in Minsk of several hours. The Irish airline said earlier that “nothing untoward” had been found after it was notified of a potential security threat on board by Belarus air traffic control and instructed to divert.

EU on Unions of Poles in Belarus

Brussels 25.03.2021 “We are witnessing a further escalation of repression against the Belarusian people, including orchestrated campaigns of persecution of human rights defenders, journalists and civil society in Belarus” reads the Statement by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell on targeting the Union of Poles in Belarus.

“Recent developments have shown that the latest target of this policy is the Union of Poles in Belarus. On 23 March, Andżelika Borys, the newly re-elected Chairwoman of the Union of Poles in Belarus was arrested and sentenced to 15 days in prison. On 25 March, Andrzej Poczobut, a journalist and a member of the board of the Union of Poles in Belarus has been detained. The offices of the Union of Poles in Belarus throughout the whole country have been searched. New criminal charges have been brought against the leadership of the Union of Poles in Belarus, which can lead to a sentence up to several years in prison.

“The European Union expects Belarus to uphold its international commitments to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. We call on Belarus to release Ms Andżelika Borys and Mr Andrzej Poczobut immediately and unconditionally, along with all political prisoners currently detained.

“The European Union remains convinced that an inclusive national dialogue remains crucial to address the situation in Belarus. The EU stands ready to support and calls on the Belarusian authorities to use every opportunity offered, including the facilitation by the OSCE”.

EU condemns Belarus repressions

The EU strongly condemns the repression carried out by the Belarusian authorities since the falsified elections of August 2020. The unacceptable harassment of human rights defenders, media workers, trade union representatives, and defence lawyers has escalated in recent days.

Two BelSat journalists, Daria Chultsova and Katsiaryna Andreyeva, were both sentenced to two years’ imprisonment on groundless charges. Other media workers are facing a similar fate. Such verdicts aim to intimidate and silence journalists and media workers, who are simply doing their jobs, as well as aim to prevent factual information from reaching the Belarusian people and beyond.

The European Union also recalls that diplomats must be allowed to work without intimidation and derogatory treatment and disinformation on the part of State-run media, which has happened in the past days.

The EU urges the Belarusian authorities to cease their violations of human rights, fundamental freedoms – including press freedom, and abuse of the rule of law. Rather than escalating the use of violence, the Belarusian authorities should respect the wishes of its citizens and engage in an inclusive national dialogue.

Belarus: EU “ready” for additional sanctions

Brussels 13.11.2020 The EU Lead Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy made a statement on the tragic death of Mr.Bandarenka caused by police brutality.

“On 12 November, 31-year old Raman Bandarenka died after several hours of surgery in a hospital in Minsk due to serious injuries caused, according to reports, by the brutality of plain clothed policemen. This is an outrageous and shameful result of the actions by the Belarusian authorities who have not only directly and violently carried out repression of their own population, but also created an environment whereby such lawless, violent acts can take place, thus ignoring not only the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Belarusian people but also disregarding their lives. The European Union expresses its deepest condolences to Mr Bandarenka’s family and friends”.

“The EU stands in solidarity with all the Belarusians who have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of the Belarusian authorities in the aftermath of the 9 August falsified presidential elections.The EU continues to strongly condemn violence employed by the Belarusian authorities against peaceful protesters, persons engaged in the pro-democracy movement, independent media, representatives of civil society or ordinary Belarusian citizens. We expect the authorities to end the violence and persecution, to release immediately and unconditionally all arbitrarily detained persons, including political prisoners, and to investigate fully and transparently all human rights violations and abuses, and hold those responsible to account. The European Union has already imposed sanctions on 55 individuals responsible for violent repression and intimidation, and stands ready to impose additional sanctions”.

Raman Bandarenka was detained at Square of Change on November 11. According to Belsat, the protestor was taken to the hospital with a closed craniocerebral injury, acute subdural head hematomas, brain hemorrhage. Roman has fallen into a coma, and later was declared dead.

After the news about the death of Bandarenka, thousands of Minsk citizens started to bring flowers and icon lamps to the Square of Change. The spontaneous memorials and vigils in his honour were created in many cities of Belarus, as well as at entrances the Belarusian embassies in Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine, where people continued to bring flowers and candels.

Tajikistan: Rahmon declared 90% winner

Presidential elections in Tajikistan as expected endorsed the incumbent Emomali Rahmon mandate for seven years more, crowning him as the longest-serving ruler among leaders of the former Soviet Republics.

Polling stations opened at 6am local time (01:00 GMT) on Sunday, October 11, and closed at 8pm (15:00 GMT), with results expected the following morning.

The Central Electoral Commission said the vote had passed the turnout threshold required for validation, with more than 70% of the nearly five million strong electorate casting votes.

Just a week ago on October 5th the Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko has wished a happy birthday to Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon, BelTA reported quoting sources from the press service of the Belarusian leader.
“In your country and abroad you are by right appreciated as an experienced and authoritative leader whose efforts and political will have ensured sustainable development of Tajikistan and the strengthening of its influence on the international arena,” the felicitation message reads.

Rahmon, 68, has run the Persian-speaking nation of 9.5 million people since 1992, a period including a civil war. He has gradually strengthened his grip and a 2016 constitutional reform removed a limit on the number of terms he could serve.

Rahmon had four competitors, all of whom are viewed as token opponents, in his bid for a renewed seven-year term. All challengers are members of the lower house of parliament and have avoided criticising Rakhmon, whose official title is “Founder of Peace and National Unity – Leader of the Nation.”

AMENDED:
The European Union has been closely following the electoral processes in Tajikistan throughout 2020, including the Presidential elections that took place on 11 October.

The EU welcomes the decision of the Government of Tajikistan to invite the OSCE/ODIHR to monitor both the Presidential and, previously, the Parliamentary elections, as well as the subsequent deployment of a small team of electoral experts as part of an Election Assessment Mission (EAM). The EU looks forward to the EAM’s concluding report that will be published in the next 6-8 weeks and will carefully examine its recommendations in order to support their implementation.

The Presidential elections seem to have been carried out in a peaceful and orderly manner. However, we note that several of the recommendations identified in the final report of OSCE/ODIHR Electoral Assessment Mission that was deployed in March 2020 in connection with the Parliamentary elections remain valid and unimplemented, such as the independence of the media environment and political plurality.

Significant efforts are needed to further align the electoral process with Tajikistan’s OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards for the conduct of democratic elections, including the freedom of the media to impartially cover and report on political developments in all parts of the country”.

The EU will seek to cooperate with and support Tajikistan in its efforts to fully implement the full sets of OSCE/ODIHR recommendations presented by both EAMs. We remain a reliable and significant partner in development cooperation, actively promoting economic modernisation, sustainable and equitable socio-economic growth, as well as enhanced governance reforms and regional cooperation”.



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