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May 8 – May 14, 2023
Belarus-West relations

The West contemplates including Belarus in the 11th package of sanctions. Lukashenka is invited to New York

The situation has not changed

The main advocates of Belarus’ inclusion in the 11th sanctions package are Poland and Lithuania. Hungary is lobbying for some exceptions to the personal sanctions lists in the interests of the Belarusian regime. Ukraine is expanding sanctions against Belarusian military-industrial enterprises and the metallurgical, automotive, and machine-building sectors. Human rights in Belarus are once again in the EU spotlight. The UN observes diplomatic decency and issues a formal invitation to Lukashenka to the Sustainable Development Goals summit in New York.

Poland continues to advocate restrictions against Belarus during discussion of the 11th package of EU sanctions against Russia. Warsaw estimates that Belarus is the biggest loophole in the current sanctions system. Sanctions have been imposed against Belarus for rigged elections, repression, hijacking a plane, but so far, despite Poland’s appeals, the EU has not imposed sanctions against Minsk for direct and indirect participation in Russian aggression against Ukraine, for repression of civil society, the media, Poles, and Lithuanians. Poland will never agree to easing sanctions against Belarusian potash and unfreezing of the assets of oligarchs who are engaged in the trade in food or fertilizers, since there is now no shortage of potash fertilisers anywhere in the world. Lithuania takes a similar position: EU sanctions should apply to Belarus without any exceptions.

Polish carriers demand a ban on the entry of semi-trailers with Russian or Belarusian registration, as well as measures against companies established in Poland by Belarusian and Russian carriers. Another requirement is the return of the licensing system for transport workers in Ukraine.

So far, two Belarusian officials are included in the 11th package of EU sanctions: the head of the Belarusian Railway, Uladzimir Marozau, and the head of the State Military Industry Committee, Dzmitry Pantus. Hungary insists on the exclusion of Marozau and two other Russians from the sanctions list, threatening to block the adoption of the entire package. In addition, Hungary has not yet joined to the statement of the European Union on the presentation of the report on human rights violations in Belarus within the framework of the OSCE Moscow Mechanism.

Overall, the 11th sanctions package will include measures to prevent circumvention of sanctions against Russian supplies through third countries, and as restrictions on shadow structures of the Russian Federation. The G7 countries and the EU are also discussing the possibility of finally blocking the supply of pipeline gas and oil from Russia to Europe in a number of areas, such as the Yamal-Europe pipeline, through which Russian gas was supplied to Poland and Germany until 2022. These deliveries have ceased, as has the Nord Stream pipelines across the Baltic. New sanctions may also affect the supply of Russian oil through the Druzhba pipeline, however, the southern branch, which supplies oil to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, will remain operational.

While the EU is discussing restrictions against Belarus, Ukraine has imposed sanctions against 17 Belarusian enterprises (mechanical engineering, automotive, military-industrial complex, metallurgy) and called on other Western countries to follow suit.

The central element of the US sanctions strategy against Russia is countering the circumvention of previously imposed restrictions by:

  • improving information sharing and coordination with allies.
  • Exerting pressure on companies and jurisdictions that allow or facilitate tax evasion.
  • identifying and shutting down specific channels used by Russia to equip and finance its armed forces.

While human rights violations, ill-treatment of political prisoners, victims of repression, and possible involvement of the regime in the deportation of Ukrainian children were in the spotlight of the European Parliament and the OSCE, UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his intention to invite Lukashenka to New York to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) summit in September. It is reported that Belarus will contribute to the preparation of the summit and “will take part in this important event at a decent level.” Whether Lukashenka will accept Guterres’ invitation has not been announced.

Such an invitation cannot be considered a diplomatic breakthrough for Minsk as all leaders of states involved in the implementation of the agenda are traditionally invited to this summit. In addition, Lukashenka has been under US sanctions since 2006, with no indication that this will be suspended.

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