The West discusses sanctions against countries helping Russia; Lukashenka pins his hopes on the UN and Vatican
The EU plans to develop a sanctions mechanism against third countries to block channels for sanctions circumvention by Moscow. Targets include Asian and post-Soviet countries, including Belarus. Western institutions continue to investigate the actions of the Russian and Belarusian authorities regarding the forced deportation of Ukrainian children. The Belarusian regime is again trying to use global food security to ease sanctions against the Belarusian potash and logistics sectors. Minsk pins its hopes on the Vatican as a communication channel with the West.
The EU is discussing a sanctions mechanism directed against countries that help the Russian Federation circumvent previously imposed restrictions to deter states from assisting Russia. The measures would drastically reduce supplies of goods and technologies, including restrictions on these goods for the third countries involved.
As a result, two lists may appear a list of countries and a list of prohibited goods. The new measures pose the greatest risk for Asian and post-Soviet countries, including Belarus.
The new package also includes a ban on the transit of certain goods through Russia, measures against ships that turn off navigation systems and may also affect the coupling scheme of semi-trailers for trucks.
Such restrictions against Belarus have already been implemented nationally, primarily by Lithuania. For example, since March 1st, the Lithuanian company LTG Cargo has received 6031 applications for transporting goods by rail, of which 4703 were approved and 1131 were rejected. Almost half of the latter were related to exports or imports from/to Belarus.
Meanwhile, following the PACE resolution, the OSCE recognised the removal of Ukrainian children as a war crime. The OSCE expert mission concluded that the practice of forced transfer and/or deportation of Ukrainian children from the temporarily occupied territories to the territory of the Russian Federation constitutes a crime against humanity. Belarus is also mentioned in the report as a territory where Ukrainian children are forcibly deported.
In response, the Presidium of the Council of the Republic of Belarus issued a statement in which it expressed indignation at the PACE resolution, characterising such actions as “a humanitarian mission to save the civilian population, including women and children.”
Meanwhile, Lukashenka reiterated his readiness to continue to cooperate with the UN regarding food security using the capabilities of Belarus as a major producer of fertilisers and agricultural products.
Minsk hopes that Vatican mediation will improve relations with the West. Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti as his special envoy on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the coronation of the icon of Our Lady of Budslav. In 2020, Gugerotti handed Lukashenka a letter from the Pope, which contained a request for then Archbishop of Minsk–Mahiliou Tadevuš Kandrusievič (previously prevented from entering Belarus) to return to Belarus by Christmas, which then happened, and met with Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makei. Apparently, this time the special envoy is visiting Belarus with an accompanying diplomatic mission.
A possible subject of negotiations is the return of Minsk’s Red Church to believers (of interest of the Vatican), joint efforts to organise Russian-Ukrainian negotiations in Belarus and the easing of sanctions (of interest to the regime) in exchange for the release of some political prisoners for humanitarian reasons (of interest to the West and Belarusian civil society).
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Situation in Belarus