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Lithuania declares Lukashenko persona non grata ahead of EU sanctions on Belarus

Lithuania declares Lukashenko persona non grata ahead of EU sanctions on Belarus
Lithuania has apparently decided not to wait for its EU and NATO partners, which are still deliberating over their collective response to protests in Belarus, and has imposed an entry ban against President Alexander Lukashenko.

Perhaps wanting to set an example to the rest of the Western blocs, Vilnius raced to compile a blacklist of Belarusian officials in response to the ongoing protests in the neighboring nation, issuing it before the EU had come up with a list of its own.

The move was announced by Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, who said his country welcomed the EU’s “determination” in taking action against Belarus and wanted to support it in that by imposing “national sanctions against those who perpetrated violence and used excessive force” as well as those who allegedly “rigged the elections.”

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Linkevicius did not reveal which officials Lithuania deems responsible for the transgressions, referencing only Lukashenko. He limited himself to stating that those on the list of 32 are high-ranking officials in the Belarusian security services, police force, and electoral commission. Linkevicius called the move a “contribution to the EU’s collective action,” while admitting the punitive measures are largely “symbolic.” And he might be right about that – Lukashenko, at least, hasn’t declared his intention to visit Lithuania any time soon in any case.

The list is yet to be approved by the nation’s interior minister, Rita Tamasuniene, who promised to rubber-stamp it on Thursday.

The EU on Wednesday declared it would be slapping new sanctions on Belarus, in response to what it called the “fraudulent” presidential elections and the suppression of demonstrations. However, EU member states have still not laid out exactly which punitive steps they plan to take, nor did they set a date on which the restrictions are to be imposed, stating instead that it should be done “as soon as possible.” The measures might eventually be “not as ambitious as we would expect,” Lithuania’s envoy to the EU, Jovita Neliupsiene, admitted.

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Belarus has been gripped by protests for more than a week, following the controversial election that returned Lukashenko, the nation’s long-time leader. The opposition contested the results, accusing the authorities of having rigged the vote. Meanwhile, Lukashenko has repeatedly warned Western nations not to interfere in Belarus’s internal affairs, saying that some of the unrest in his country may well have been fanned by geopolitics and financed from abroad.

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