NEW YORK, Oct. 16, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Belarusian opposition figures and NGOs have repeatedly called for the EU and the US sanctions against state-owned Belarusian companies, arguing that cutting off money flow to the dictatorial regime of Alexander Lukashenko might foster changes in the country. Belarusian politicians were more cautious, to some part because calling for sanctions is considered treason in Belarus.
As the annual review of restrictive measures against Belarus looms, more politicians come forward with support of expanding sanctions against the state-owned companies that generate the most profits for the Lukashenko regime. This fall, Anatoly Lebedko, one of the most prominent Belarusian politicians and leader of the United Citizens Party, said during a weekly Belarusian radio show on New York radio 87.7 FM organized by Belarusians in Exile, a US-based NGO: "Business elites responsible for financing the Lukashenko regime is very sensitive to sanctions. Sanctions is exactly what they are unhappy with," added Lebedko.
"Creating [quasi-state] holdings allows [President Alexander] Lukashenko to make his entourage richer and to retain complete political control by not allowing anyone else to become wealthy," added Lebedko, commenting on the fact that most of the exports from Belarus are controlled by state-owned conglomerates controlled by businessmen who were handpicked and appointed by the President.
As the review of the restrictive measures against Belarus by the EU approaches – it is to take place by October 31, 2013 – more politicians and NGOs are urging the Council of Ministers to add major Belarusian exporters, such as oil trader Naftan, potash exporter Belarusian Potash Company, producer Belaruskali and several other exporters who generate the most revenue for the regime, to the sanctions list.
Human rights lawyer and sanctions expert Jamison Firestone said: "Sanctions against the regime are in place, but they don't work because the EU has not been sanctioning the right companies. Every year the sanctions were imposed, trade between the EU and Belarus grew".
"I am certain, that sanctions can be effective," said Lebedko during the radio broadcast, adding his voice to those the EU and the US to review and expand sanctions.