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EU blacklists Belarus ministers as US slaps sanctions on officials

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After the US imposed sanctions on several top Belarus officials, the European Union blacklisted the country’s defence minister Viktor Khrenin and transport minister Alexei Avramenko over the plane diversion row.

The EU added 71 individuals including Russian tycoon Mikhail Gutseriyev, Lukashenko’s son Dmitry and daughter-in-law Liliya to the sanctions list.

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EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell had earlier said that new sanctions would be imposed against “86 people and entities”.

EU states are set to impose fresh sanctions on Belarus’ financial, oil, tobacco and potash sectors, reports said as Austria’s foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg stated that Europe is set to “tighten the thumbscrews” over the country’s “air piracy”.

President Lukashenko’s government had earlier forced a Ryanair flight to land and forcibly arrested dissident blogger Roman Protasevich who was onboard leading EU nations to come down heavily against the regime.

The EU had earlier slapped sanctions against 88 individuals last year over crackdown on protests as President Lukashenko claimed victory in polls which was deemed fraudulent by European officials.

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya claimed victory in the polls but was forced to leave the country.

Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet said that the situation in Belarus continues to deteriorate.

Bachelet hit out against restrictions on freedom of expression including raids against civil society. The rights chief said there were numerous reports of “arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture and ill-treatment.”

(With inputs from Agencies)

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