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February 20 – February 26, 2023
Belarus-West relations

The West is preparing to punish Belarus on the anniversary of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine

The situation has not changed

The Belarusian regime opposes the resolution of the UN General Assembly on withdrawing Russian troops from Ukraine. Meanwhile, after several rounds of discussions, the EU has agreed on the 10th package of sanctions against Russia and accepted Poland’s demands that further measures against Belarus must follow (disagreements remain regarding sanctions against Belarusian fertilisers). The United States and other Western allies also imposed new sanctions timed to coincide with the anniversary of the invasion.

On the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Belarus reiterated its position by voting against the resolution of the UN General Assembly on withdrawing Russian troops from Ukraine, approved by 141 states. Unlike the Belarusian regime, the United Transitional Cabinet (UTC) joined the resolution of the UN General Assembly.

In addition, Western countries and international organisations adopted a number of resolutions condemning Russia and Belarus, such as the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, which called for reparations to be imposed on Russia and Belarus.

At a meeting in Warsaw, also attended by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US President Joe Biden, the leaders of the Bucharest Nine (B9) condemned Belarus for actively contributing to Russian aggression. President Biden mentioned Belarus, opposition leaders and people fighting for democracy in his “Warsaw speech”. NATO also joined the condemnation.

The EU initially failed to approve new sanctions as the Ambassadors of the European Council only agreed to a one-year extension of sanctions against Lukashenka and his entourage, including a visa ban and an asset freeze on 195 people and 34 Belarusian organisations.

New sanctions against Russia were not agreed upon until the evening of February 24th, on the condition that Poland starts work on a new sanctions package against Belarus on February 27th. The lack of consensus is apparently due to differing views regarding sanctions against the Belarusian potash industry. Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands and France favour exempting Belarusian potash fertilisers from sanctions. In addition, it transpires that Hrodna Azot supplies fertilisers to Europe, bypassing existing sanctions through intermediaries.

The United States and the G7 announced new sanctions against Russia and Belarus. The sanctions lists will include more than 200 individuals and legal entities from the Russian Federation, as well as “third countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East” that support the military aggression of the Russian Federation. The targets include entities associated with the Russian defence industry, including those involved in sanctions circumvention, amounting to export control measures against 90 companies, and banning the sale of semiconductors. Increased import duties on Russian goods, including metals, minerals, and chemical products, will affect USD 2.8 billion in trade.

The US also extended its export ban to Belarus and Russia to include smartphones over USD 300, household coffee machines, and other goods for the Russian and Belarusian industrial and luxury goods sectors.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus declared its intent to maintain essential dialogue with the West, partly to continue to argue that sanctions are counterproductive. Belarusian diplomats, in cooperation with Russian and Chinese colleagues, strive to undermine the consensus of Western countries regarding anti-Belarusian initiatives.

However, on the anniversary of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, the Belarusian regime was still unable to develop credible arguments to convince the West of the need to ease sanctions.

 

 

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