EU debates extending Belarus sanctions to cut loopholes
BRUSSELS, Jan 27 (Reuters) – European Union ambassadors on Friday discussed extending sanctions to Russia’s ally Belarus to curb sanctions evasion on Russia by companies that move banned products through its neighbors.
EU diplomats told Reuters that the discussions were intended to align sanctions on Belarus more closely with those on Russia.
Among the proposals are restrictions on imports from Belarus of oil, coal and gold as well as exports of certain machinery and technology that can be used by the military, officials said.
An EU official said discussions among EU countries will continue, with an agreement likely next week.
The official said the bloc was trying to find a balance, making it clear that Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko’s support for Moscow was unacceptable while trying not to cause too much suffering to the civilian population.
“It’s a tightrope act. We’re trying to tighten the screws but not too much,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
But, the official said, signs that Belarus was being used to get round sanctions on Russia meant that the EU had to tighten its measures.
The EU has imposed a range of sanctions on Russia since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, banning imports of products including marine oil, coal, steel, gold, timber and plastic.
Russian seafood, liquor, cigarettes and cosmetics are also on the list of prohibited products.
It also imposed restrictions on Belarus, which the bloc says has allowed Russia to fire missiles from its territory and for Russian troops, tanks and aircraft to cross its soil.
Those sanctions cover tobacco products, potash, mineral fuels and products made from wood, steel and rubber.
In the financial sector, the measures are similar. There is a ban on transactions with the Belarusian central bank and on the provision of euro-denominated banknotes, limits on financial inflows from Belarus and a ban on the provision of the SWIFT messaging service to five banks of Belarus. (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Kate Abnett and Andrew Gray; Editing by William Maclean)