Belarus announces retaliatory sanctions against the EU

Belarusian authorities on Friday announced they were imposing sanctions against the European Union and threatened to revise the country's diplomatic relations with the bloc, news wires reported. The move came in response to EU sanctions on several dozen Belarus officials accused of falsifying presidential election results and leading a crackdown on peaceful protesters.

The EU in the early hours of Friday decided to impose sanctions on about 40 officials, with the exception of President Alexander Lukashenko. In response, the Foreign Ministry of Belarus issued a statement announcing its own sanctions against European officials. “The Belarusian side, starting from today, puts into effect a retaliatory sanctions list,” the statement said. The ministry didn't reveal the list and gave no details as to how many officials were on it.

If the EU further ratchets up “the sanctions flywheel," there could be “more serious consequences,” according to the statement, such as Belarus pulling out of joint programmes and projects or revising its diplomatic relations with the bloc.

"Belarus is always, in words and in deeds, against confrontation. We are for dialogue and understanding. But as a sovereign state, we're also determined, albeit not without regret, to respond to unfriendly actions in order to naturally defend our national interests," the statement read.

The West doesn't have much leverage in the current crisis in Belarus, Minsk-based political analyst Artyom Shraybman told The Associated Press: “Lukashenko doesn't care about the West's opinion of his actions.” Shraybman called the EU sanctions “meager” and symbolic. “The EU countries adopt these sanctions solely for themselves, in order to show themselves that they're not cynics and that human rights matter for them,” Shraybman said.

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