LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) – European Union foreign ministers agreed on Monday to sanction Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and other senior officials over an Aug. 9 election the West says was rigged, citing worsening police violence against protesters.
Lukashenko, who has been in power for 26 years, was not on the EU’s sanctions list of 40 names agreed on Oct. 2, but the bloc now says his refusal to consider new elections as a way out of the crisis leaves it with no choice.
“This is an answer to the evolving situation in Belarus,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who chaired the EU ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg, told reporters.
“There has not been any kind of signal from the Belarus authorities to engage in any kind of conversation,” he said, citing a “complete lack of will” from Lukashenko to consider talks on holding a free and fair presidential election.
The latest round of sanctions is likely to take several days to prepare, but envoys said the travel bans and asset freezes were no longer conditional on the situation in Belarus, which ministers said was dramatically worsening.
Police said they had detained 713 people at mass protests on Sunday in which security forces used water cannon and batons to break up crowds demanding a new presidential election.
Belarus announced retaliatory sanctions against the EU earlier this month.
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