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May 20 – May 26, 2024
Belarus-West relations

The EU Plans to Expand Restrictions Against Belarus, The Regime Responds with Counter-Sanctions

The situation has not changed
The EU Plans to Expand Restrictions Against Belarus, The Regime Responds with Counter-Sanctions
Photo: elements.envato.com

The European Union intends to strengthen its sanctions regime against Minsk to block Moscow’s attempts to circumvent restrictions through the Belarusian jurisdiction. This concerns “gray” schemes of importing dual-use products and luxury goods from Western countries, as well as the re-export of Russian diamonds to the European Union through Belarus. Without waiting for these measures, Minsk is implementing its own counter-sanctions against EU countries.

The European Union plans to tighten sanctions on the supply of certain goods to Belarus. This is related to circumventing anti-Russian restrictions due to aggression against Ukraine.

New sanctions will prohibit the export to Belarus and through it of technologies and goods that could have military purposes. The EU will also stop importing diamonds from Belarus, mirroring the recent ban on Russian-origin stones. If the new sanctions are adopted by the 27 member states of the bloc, one of the main flows to be stopped will be luxury-class cars.

After the ban on importing cars into Russia costing more than EUR 50,000, there was a sharp increase in car deliveries from the EU to Belarus, starting in July 2022. Later, Belarusian independent investigative journalists uncovered entire networks supplying luxury cars from the EU to Russia via Belarus. The largest export growth was recorded in the most expensive categories of cars: in 2023, about a thousand premium cars worth USD 100 million were transported from EU countries to Russia through Belarus, including Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes-Benz, Maybach.

More than 30 Belarusian companies are involved in the transit of cars from the EU to Russia. The main flow of this import goes through Lithuania, whose customs service struggles with a complex system of banned goods during cargo inspection. Due to high workload, preventing sanction circumvention is challenging. However, it is clear to everyone: differences in restrictions against Russia and Belarus have left loopholes that the Kremlin is exploiting.

In response, on May 21, the Belarusian government decided to implement retaliatory measures against “systematic unfriendly actions by the European Union and several of the most aggressively minded EU countries towards the Republic of Belarus.” In particular, a ban was imposed on the import from Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Estonia of certain goods, including beverages, cosmetics, crockery, textiles, and footwear. However, the decision does not affect goods imported for personal use.

The Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs justifies this step by the attempts of these EU countries to lead the Western anti-Belarusian agenda, including:

* the line on the destruction of friendly ties between peoples,

* the continuous invention of new restrictions,

* the spread of disinformation about the real situation in Belarus,

* restrictions on the freedom of movement of people and goods,

* bans on pension payments and alimonies,

* illegal confiscations of goods and asset freezes based on an expansive interpretation of sanctions,

* threats of nationalization of Belarusian state property.

The list of grievances also includes the preparation of militants and forceful scenarios for an unconstitutional coup in Belarus, restrictions on broadcasting of national media, and the initiation of criminal cases against their own citizens who speak positively about Belarus.

The regime still hopes that EU countries will soon “tire” of the Belarusian opposition in exile, will begin to soberly and judiciously assess information from partners about threats emanating from Belarus, and will come to understand the inevitability of returning to dialogue with Minsk in the interests of regional stability and security.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.
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