EU may expand blacklist of Belarusians
The European Union may expand its list of Belarusians subject to the bloc’s visa ban and asset freeze, Gunnar Wiegand, a senior official in the European External Action Service (EEAS), told reporters in Brussels on Monday, according to the online newspaper EUobserver.
"The release of two political prisoners has not put the ball in the EU`s court,” said Mr. Wiegand, referring to the release of former presidential candidate Andrey Sannikaw and his campaign aide Dzmity Bandarenka in April. “The ball remains in Minsk ... We could probably broaden the number of people on the travel ban."
The bloc`s blacklist currently includes businessmen Uladzimir Peftsiyew and Yury Chyzh, who are said to have close ties withAlyaksandr Lukashenka.
According to EUobserver, the EU considers adding to it Alyaksandr Mashenski, who runs a food and restaurant business called Santa Impeks Brest.
The man was “instrumental” in Mr. Lukashenka`s 2010 presidential election campaign and is said to rank as the number three most influential tycoon in the country after Messrs. Chyzh and Peftsiyew, says the newspaper.
Mr. Wiegand expressed the opinion that the EU’s sanctions were effective. "The fact that we keep up the pressure on the government may very well have contributed to the release of some of the 23 political prisoners," he noted.
Last year, crude oil and petrochemical products accounted for 36 percent of Belarus` exports to the EU. In total, trade between the two surged by 69 percent in 2011 despite the political deep freeze, says EUobserver.
The EU Council added Mr. Peftsiyew and his three companies to the bloc’s blacklist in June last year. This past March, the Council imposed sanctions on Mr. Chyzh and Anatol Tsernawski, one more businessman with close ties with Alyaksandr Lukashenka, -- along with other Belarusian citizens -- and 29 Belarusian companies controlled by them and Mr. Peftsiyew.
According to the EU, its blacklist now features 243 Belarusian persons and 32 Belarusian companies.