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Report: Belarusian Companies Bankrolling Lukashenko to Face EU Sanctions

LONDON, Sept. 10, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Belarusian human rights organizations released legal opinions today that were prepared by British law firm Macfarlanes and indicate that large Belarusian government-controlled corporations are the main source of hard currency for Belarusian government and likely to be subject to EU sanctions. These key bankrollers of the regime include the Belarusian Potash Company and Belaruskali, Belshina, and Naftan; all these companies are personally controlled by Lukashenko and supply more than 50% of the hard currency for the Lukashenko regime, according to the reports published by Belarusians in Exile.

Belarusian and international human rights groups have been calling on the EU to step up targeted sanctions against Lukashenko's regime, because the current sanctions are ineffective, and the volume of trade between the EU and Belarus is actually on the rise, in the face of worsening human rights violations. The European Union is now Belarus' second largest trade partner, buying oil, potassium fertilizers and other goods from this country.

"Legal opinions released by Belarusians in Exile show that major government-owned companies of Belarus can be put on the sanctions list according to the new European regulations. Now it's the matter of political will," says human rights lawyer Jamison Firestone.

In 2012, the EU sanctions regulations have been updated and now allow to sanction not only individuals and companies that are directly responsible for human rights violations, but also those who finance the regime. "EU sanctions against Belarus were first introduced in 2006 over violations of international electoral standards, serious violations of human rights and repressions in Belarus," the legal opinion says. "The European Union has since repeatedly expressed concern about lack of progress achieved by the sanctions. EU extended the sanctions in October 2012 for another year, until October 2013..."

The legal opinion states that Belshina, Belaruskali, the Belarusian Potash Company, and Naftan are fully controlled by the Belarusian government, generating enormous profits to the regime. Therefore, under the EU resolution, these companies should be subject to EU sanctions.

In addition, the legal opinion states that sanctions against these companies will be most effective, because they would hurt Lukashenko's regime rather than people of Belarus.

"The current sanctions against the Lukashenko regime are ineffective, as the trade volume between the EU and Belarus is rising," says Dima Shehigelsky, Belarusians in Exile director. "Legal opinions provide the EU lawmakers with legal argument for adding these companies to the sanctions list and effectively limiting a flow of funds to the dictatorial regime in Belarus.

The Macfarlanes reports and other information on human rights violations in Belarus are available on Belarusians in Exile website, www.belarusiansinexile.org.

CONTACT: Dima Shehigelsky Belarusians in Exile www.belarusiansinexile.org info@belorussians.org +1 (646) 583-2525Source: Belarusians in Exile