Latest EU sanctions weigh on Belarus dictator’s income
Belarusian opposition leaders widely welcomed the latest round of EU sanctions against regime henchmen, but some said they should have gone further.
The new EU blacklist adopted on Monday (June 21) included pro-regime business barons Mikhail Gutseriev, Alexei Oleksin, Alexandr Shatrov, Sergei Teterin and Alexander Zaitsev.
It included the son of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Dmitry, and his daughter-in-law, Liliya, who are believed to be involved in his bribery schemes.
It also covered five companies allegedly involved in smuggling, such as cigarettes, to the EU, or EU products banned by Russia, such as cheeses, into Russia: Bremino, Globalcustom, Logex, New Oil Company and Sohra.
The list covered a university rector and three rectors who allegedly denounced or expelled student activists.
He was targeting a handful of pro-Lukashenko propagandists, such as his TV chief and a columnist for his favorite newspaper, Sovietska Belarus.
He lashed out at those directly responsible for Belarus’s hijacking of a Ryanair flight last month to wrestle an activist – the defense minister, transport minister, air force chief and the head of air traffic control.
And he listed dozens of judges, prosecutors, investigators and police chiefs responsible for persecuting pro-democracy protesters.
Speaking to the press in Brussels on the same day, Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya welcomed the decision.
The “unprecedented” list sent a “powerful” signal that “would influence the regime, they will have to seek dialogue with civil society,” she said.
“Sanctions are more powerful when united,” she added, after Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States also imposed similar, albeit smaller, measures the same day.
Speaking to EUobserver from Warsaw, where he lives in exile, Anatoly Kotov, another main activist, said the sanctions were “very severe” and aimed mainly at harming the income of Lukashenko’s nomenklatura.
The smuggled money went straight to the president’s off-budget black bank accounts, he said.
“The sanctions have also destroyed all future business prospects in Europe of the people they named,” Kotov added.
Speaking from exile in Estonia, another activist, who asked to remain anonymous, said sanctions against university leaders would play an important role.
“It will really support the students and discourage the university authorities from expelling other students,” he said.
But he said it was a waste of the EU’s time to go after judges and police officers.
“Yes, you can show who these bastards are and that there is no rule of law in Belarus, but even if they leave their post, they will simply be replaced by others,” he said. he declares.
For her part, Natalia Koliada, director of strategy for the NGO Creative Politics Hub, an opposition activist in exile in London, however criticized the shortlist of oligarchs.
There were at least 20 other regime henchmen who should have been blacklisted, she told EUobserver.
And that should have included their family members, to whom they transferred their assets to evade EU measures as soon as they were imposed.
“I don’t understand what the EU expects and why they don’t just do it [hit Lukashenko’s private income] correctly all at once – Ryanair’s hijacking shows that it has already become a danger for all of Europe, not just Belarusians, “she said.
“The EU needs a more flexible and nimble sanctions system, because that’s how mafia structures work,” she said.
Koliada also criticized UK and US sanctions for not going far enough.
Lukashenko being supposed to keep most of his money in Abu Dhabi, Koliada said the United States has the power to pressure the Emirates to seize his loot.
She called the British list “unprecedented hypocrisy” and “disaster” because it did not name Gutseriev and his “clan” – the most important of Lukashenko’s financial sponsors.
But for his part, Kotov said the reason the EU had not tackled all the money men at once was to encourage defections and dissent among those who were not yet listed.
“They all know this will not be the last round of EU sanctions,” he noted.
Two previously pro-Lukashenko business leaders have already contacted the opposition in Poland to talk about switching sides, Kotov’s partner Evgeny Medvedev, who also lives in Warsaw, told EUobserver.
And the EU’s blacklists won’t be as easy to get around as Koliada might fear after the EU also imposed economic sanctions on Belarusian banks, oil, tobacco and fertilizer companies later this week, as expected, Kotov noted.