Switzerland slaps additional sanctions on Belarus

A woman at a pensioners' opposition rally protests against the official presidential election results in Minsk in November Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

The Swiss government has announced further economic sanctions against Belarus, including trade prohibitions as well as restrictions in the financial sector.

This content was published on August 12, 2021

Western governments have been ramping up the pressure on the country’s authoritarian regime, which came to power in 1994 and has cracked down on protesters and dissidents since contested elections in August last year.

The new package of economic sanctions, which took effect on Wednesday, follows similar decisions taken by the European Union in June. In addition to the existing embargo on arms and equipment that may be used for internal repression, Switzerland is now imposing sanctions on goods that could be used to monitor or intercept the internet and telephone communications.

“Switzerland is deeply concerned about the steadily deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus and the absence of dialogue between the government and civil society,” the economics ministry said in a statementExternal link on Wednesday.

“It continues to call on Belarus to adhere to its international human rights obligations, which include respect for the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, the release of all persons arbitrarily detained, and the investigation of allegations of torture or ill-treatment by security forces.”

The new sanctions also restrict trade in dual-use goods and technologies, various petroleum and potassium chloride (potash) products, and goods used for the production or processing of tobacco products.

In the financial sector, the government has imposed restrictions on the issuance of and trading in certain financial instruments. That includes the provision of loans and insurance or reinsurance services to the Belarusian government, public bodies and agencies.

Financial sanctions were also placed on Belaeronavigatsia, the state-owned provider of air navigation services.

Western pressure

On Monday the United States, in a coordinated move with Britain and Canada, slapped new sanctions on several Belarusian individuals and entities with the aim of punishing hardline president Alexander Lukashenko.

Western governments have sought to put pressure on Lukashenko, who is accused of rigging elections in August 2020 and of imprisoning or driving out all significant opposition leaders to prolong his now 27 years in power. He says he won the vote fairly, and that others were calling for a coup.

Switzerland first imposed sanctions against Belarus in 2006. Last month, it widened them after Belarusian authorities triggered outrage by intercepting a passenger flight in May and arresting a dissident blogger on board. The high-profile defection of Belarusian athlete Kristina Timanovskaya at the Tokyo Olympics and the presumed murder of a Belarusian activist in Ukraine also made headiness in recent weeks.

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