February 27 – March 5, 2023
Belarus-West relations

While the new package of EU sanctions remains stalled some Western countries are taking the initiative

The situation got worse

The EU cannot reach a consensus on a new package of sanctions against Belarus due to disagreements regarding Belarusian fertilisers. However, some Western states are tightening sanctions and export controls to prevent circumvention by Russia and Belarus. The Belarusian regime attempts to intimidate the West with the possible expansion of the Russian-Ukrainian war and annexation by Russia and tries to soften sanctions by taking credit for the non-participation of the Belarusian army in the war against Ukraine.

The new package of EU sanctions against the Belarusian regime is still not agreed upon, as some countries, motivated by food security issues, favour easing restrictions on the export of Belarusian fertilisers. Consequently, on the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, sanctions against Belarus were simply extended.

While the EU is trying to agree on a new package of restrictions against Belarus, others are tightening export controls. South Korea has expanded sanctions against Russia and Belarus from 57 to 798 items, including cars worth more than USD 50,000, machines, bearings, heat exchangers, oil and gas processing equipment, and steel and chemical products. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy of South Korea deems these “dual use” products with potential military applications.

The US Department of Commerce also imposed export restrictions on 37 companies from Russia, Belarus, China, Burma, and Pakistan, which may be involved in “actions contrary to the interests of national security and foreign policy of the United States.” The list includes DMT Trading (registered in Belarus), DMT Electronics from Russia, and Neotec Semiconductor from Taiwan, all designated as making a significant contribution to the Russian military-industrial complex.

In January and February, Lithuanian railway carrier LTG Cargo rejected 9% of 3700 applications from Belarusian enterprises in connection with alleged attempts to circumvent sanctions. In total, 1500 thousand wagons were refused transit.

The West suspects that the agreements and memorandums signed during Lukashenka’s visit to China may include arrangements to circumvent sanctions by sending Chinese aid to Russia through Belarus. US authorities are, therefore, tightening export controls against companies that arrange transactions and movement of goods to Russia and Belarus through China, including Hong Kong and Macau, and “jurisdictions close to the Russian Federation”, such as including Armenia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.

Meanwhile, the European Union condemned the sentences of Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich, Uladzimir Labkovich and Dzmitry Salauyou. It stated that it is ready to respond to the regime’s repression of its people. The EU calls for the immediate and unconditional release of more than 1450 political prisoners in Belarus, who are persecuted for protesting against human rights violations, Russia’s war against Ukraine, and the role of Belarus in the aggression.

Washington believes that the lengthy prison sentences aim to ensure that the Belarusian regime can maintain power at the expense of sovereignty, independence and personal freedoms.

Poland also opposes politically motivated trials and calls for releasing all political prisoners. Following the closure of border crossings, Warsaw is waiting for a response, such as the release of Andrzej Poczobut and does not rule out a complete border closure. In general, Warsaw aims to ensure respect for the rights of the Polish minority in Belarus and the cessation of the practice of destroying the graves of the Home Army. Closing the border with Belarus is supported by over half of the Polish electorate (54.1%).

The Belarusian regime continues threatening the West with the consequences of militarisation of Ukraine. Minsk asserts that providing the Ukrainian Armed Forces with modern, long-range weapons increases the risk of drawing new states into the conflict and may lead to the use of nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, Belarusian diplomats continue to telegraph Kremlin attempts to annex Belarus, emphasising Belarusian support for Russia is only rhetorical, not material (refusal to send Belarusian troops to fight against Ukraine).

With the adoption of a new package of EU sanctions stalled, the neighbouring countries of Belarus (Poland and Lithuania) take the initiative to prevent the circumvention of existing sanctions and don’t rule out tightening their logistical blockade.

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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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