EU weighs further sanctions on Belarus

A tightening of sanctions would follow broad measures imposed on Belarus' economy in June over Lukashenko's crackdown on protesters following his disputed re-election in August 2020.

The protesters say the election was rigged, which he denies.

Many EU states now also accuse Lukashenko of encouraging illegal migrants, many from Iraq, Iran and Africa, to enter the European Union via Belarusian territory in a retaliatory "hybrid war" they say aims to destabilize the bloc.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said a new round of sanctions should target the former Soviet republic's flagship airline. "I also believe that we need to sanction (Belarusian airline) Belavia fully, so that it cannot, let's say, receive any kind of support, so that means more sanctions," he said.

Although Belavia has already been banned from flying over EU airspace, it still leases planes from EU countries, notably Ireland. Ireland appeared wary of immediately preventing Belavia from leasing planes because of legal obligations on existing contracts, although Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said he was open to preventing future deals. "While Ireland wants to increase pressure and sanctions on the Belarusian regime, we've also got to make sure that is practicable and implementable," he said.

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