Government approves sanctions against Belarusian officials

Hundreds of people gathered to form a human chain in Tallinn to support Belarusians.
Hundreds of people gathered to form a human chain in Tallinn to support Belarusians. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The government on Wednesday approved a directive which will ban people suspected to be responsible for the falsification of the Belarusian presidential election results and related violence and human rights abuses from entering Estonia.

The directive was submitted by the minister of foreign affairs and will be implemented under the International Sanctions Act against.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said: "The people of Belarus have the right to freely choose their own path and they have expressed a clear desire for democratic change. This can only be achieved by holding truly free and independent elections.

"The purpose of the targeted sanctions imposed by Estonia is to explicitly condemn the falsification of the election results and the violence used against peaceful protesters, and to ensure that the persons responsible cannot enter Estonia."

Estonia does not recognise the results of the Belarusian presidential election held on August 9, as they were neither free nor fair.

The sanctions will be imposed in coordination with Latvia and Lithuania. The European Union is also preparing to impose sanctions.

The government regulation will enter into force pursuant to general procedure. The minister of foreign affairs will then establish the list of specific persons in a directive.

Speaking to ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" at a government press conference on Thursday afternoon, Ratas said: "[We did it] Because Estonia and the Baltic states have a special duty of care in the whole issue of Belarus to be in the picture internationally with these issues."

However, opposition politicians told ERR the sanctions would have been more effective if the European Union as a whole had implemented them and the government's move can be seen to represent domestic political interest.

Former foreign minister and current MEP Sven Mikser (SDE) said Estonia's separate sanctions will have little effect.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE). Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

"Undoubtedly, sanctions have a real meaning if they are coordinated and uniformly applied. Estonia is not an economic force on its own to have any real impact on the Belarussian regime, Such a step is undoubtedly aimed at our own domestic audience than at the pressure on Belarus, the pressure on the Lukashenko regime," Mikser told ERR.

"National sanctions also have a certain symbolic value, but if we want sanctions to be truly effective and achieve some result, our national sanctions will certainly not be enough."

Former foreign minister and MEP Urmas Paet (Reform) echoed Miksers words: "Of course, a stronger message would be for the EU member states to impose sanctions at once and as a whole. And it is a pity that this has not been the case."

Foreign minister attends informal meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers in Berlin

Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) will attend the informal meeting of the foreign affairs ministers of the European Union.

The agenda of the two-day meeting includes Belarus, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, relations between the European Union and Russia, and the European Union's long-term strategy for the geopolitical impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Urmas Reinsalu said he planned to raise the future actions of the European Union in the Belarus crisis at today's discussion on Belarus.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

"In order to support the people of Belarus, the European Union must introduce sanctions at the earliest opportunity," Reinsalu said. "We must also actively support the civil society in Belarus and the free press, and it should receive greater support from the European Union." 

The Gymnich meeting on 27-28 August is a regular informal meeting of the foreign affairs ministers of the European Union, held twice a year.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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