Switzerland expanded sanctions against Belarus

Nasha Gazeta said that the detention of the Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich after the forced landing of the plane in which he was, caused a reaction in all of Europe and in the United States. In particular, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the incident “an unprecedented act of state terrorism,” and the rest of the European leaders agreed to one degree or another, calling for an investigation into the circumstances of the incident, closing European airspace for Belarusian aircraft and demanding that all European airlines overflights of the Belarusian airspace.

At the end of June, Brussels approved a full package of economic sanctions, which include a ban on the direct or indirect sale, supply, transfer or export to anyone in Belarus of equipment, technology or software intended primarily for use for monitoring purposes or the interception of Internet and telephone communications, as well as dual-use goods and technologies for military use. Brussels, among other things, restricted the trade in petroleum products, potassium chloride and goods used for the production or manufacture of tobacco products. In addition, the European Investment Bank has ceased payments or payments on all existing agreements for public sector projects, as well as on any existing technical assistance contracts.

Overall, since October 2020, the EU has been gradually introducing restrictive measures against Belarus in response to the rigged presidential elections in August 2020, as well as intimidation and brutal repression against peaceful demonstrators, opposition representatives and journalists. A total of 166 individuals and 15 legal entities are currently subject to restrictive measures, which include an asset freeze and a travel ban. As for Minsk, in response to the European sanctions, it announced its withdrawal from the Eastern Partnership initiative and the suspension of the Readmission Agreement with the EU.

On July 7, it became known that Switzerland has joined the new penal measures of the European Union against Belarus. According to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), 78 people and seven companies were added to the sanctions list. In particular, sanctions were applied to Alexander Lukashenko’s son Dmitry and his daughter-in-law Lilia, officials of the Ministry of Transport and deputies. Restrictive measures were imposed on judges, prosecutors and their aides, who made politically motivated decisions against journalists and protesters and thus “are responsible for serious violations of human rights and for serious undermining of the rule of law, as well as for the repression of civil society and democratic opposition” .

Among the companies that fell under the sanctions, there is, among other things, the Sokhra group, which, according to Seco, belongs to Alexander Zaitsev, one of the most influential businessmen in Belarus and a close aide of Alexander Lukashenko’s eldest son Viktor. Sokhra promotes Belarusian industrial products in Africa and the Middle East, is a co-founder of the defense company BSVT-New Technologies, which produces weapons and modernizes missiles, and also mines gold in African countries. “Thus, Sohra Group benefits from the Lukashenka regime,” sums up Seco. In addition, restrictions have been imposed on the New Oil Company (NOC), which Seco reports is the only private enterprise authorized to export oil products from Belarus.

Large manufacturers of trucks and equipment BELAZ and MAZ are included in the list from state-owned enterprises. The management of these enterprises threatened layoffs, fired or intimidated workers who participated in strikes and peaceful protests, Seco notes, stressing that the companies are thus “responsible for the repression of civil society and support the Lukashenka regime.”

We add that immediately after the incident with the Ryanair flight, Switzerland demanded the immediate release of Roman Protasevich, and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs called for a thorough investigation of the incident.