Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania place travel sanctions on 30 top officials in Belarus, including President Alexander Lukashenko.

Opposition supporters take part in a rally against presidential election results near the Independence Palace in Minsk, Belarus. August 30, 2020.
Opposition supporters take part in a rally against presidential election results near the Independence Palace in Minsk, Belarus. August 30, 2020. (TUT.BY / Reuters)

The three Baltic countries have slapped their own travel sanctions on 30 top officials in Belarus, including President Alexander Lukashenko, in response to a brutal crackdown against protesters who say the August 9 presidential election in Belarus was rigged.

The move comes as the European Union is planning its own sanctions list of up to 20 senior Belarus officials suspected of election fraud and the crackdown on protesters and is likely to put Lukashenko on that list at some point. All three Baltic nations are members of the EU.

“We are giving a clear signal that such actions are not acceptable and that those responsible for such acts are not welcome in Latvia,” the country’s foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, told the Baltic News Service. ”We call upon the European Union to promptly proceed with similar decisions.”

In its response, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said it would respond to sanctions in an equivalent fashion and called them a hasty step.

READ MORE: Human chain in Lithuania to support Belarus protests

Baltic leaders speak out

Those on the Baltics list are banned from entering Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, according to the document signed by the three nations’ interior ministers. The travel ban includes individuals from the Belarus president’s office and administration, the central election commission, the interior and justice ministries and the general prosecutor’s office.

“New people will be added to the list in the future.” said Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda.

“With these sanctions, we are demonstrating that we are addressing the human rights violations in Belarus with utmost seriousness,” his Estonian counterpart Urmas Reinsalu told BNS. “At the same time, we consider it important not to punish the people of Belarus.”

Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist for 26 years, has faced weeks of protests since he was re-elected to a sixth term on August 9 with what officials say was 80 percent of the vote. The opposition says the poll was rigged, and both the EU and the US say the election was neither free nor fair.

Last week, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry proposed sanctions against 118 individuals suspected of involvement in brutal crackdowns on protesters demanding Lukashenko’s resignation, and 30 of them are suspected of vote-rigging in Belarus. The two other neighbouring Baltic countries were working on similar plans.

READ MORE: Thousands rally for Belarus opposition march on Lukashenko's birthday

Source: AP