EU removes 170 people, three entities from Belarus sanctions list

EU sanctions on Belarus targeting 170 individuals and three entities will end this month, after a decision finalized Thursday to lift the bulk of restrictive measures against the former Soviet state, in recognition of its democratic progress.

Belarus has been called Europe's last dictatorship, but its dealings with the European Union and the United States have warmed since Minsk released political prisoners last year and contributed to a deal on the Ukraine crisis.

The delisting, formalized at a meeting of EU interior ministers, will come into effect when it is published in the EU's Official Journal on Saturday. Those affected include longtime President Alexander Lukashenko.

The sanctions were all suspended in October, following broadly democratic elections that passed without violence. Last week, EU foreign ministers agreed not to extend the restrictive measures when they expire at the end of the month.

However, an existing arms embargo will be kept in place for a further 12 months, along with sanctions on four people thought to be involved in the disappearance of regime critics 15 years ago.

Despite the recent signs of progress out of Minsk, rights groups worry that serious shortfalls remain in the areas of democracy and human rights, including the existence of the death penalty, a practice opposed by the EU.

Belarus is one of six former Soviet states with whom the EU has sought closer relations, under its Eastern Partnership programme.

The policy has strained relations with Russia, notably in the case of Ukraine, where the attempt to forge closer ties between Brussels and Kiev triggered the country's current crisis.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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