EU, US partly suspend Belarus sanctions

EU, US partly suspend Belarus sanctions
By bne IntelliNews October 29, 2015

The Council of the European Union (EU) has suspended for four months the asset freeze and travel ban applying to 170 individuals and three entities in Belarus, the Council said on October 29.

However, some restrictive measures that were due to expire on October 31 were prolonged for four months, until February 29, 2016. "Four persons involved in unresolved disappearances in Belarus remain subject to restrictive measures. The arms embargo also continues to apply," a Council statement reads.

The decision was taken in response to the release of all Belarusian political prisoners on 22 August and in the context of improving EU-Belarus relations, the statement added.

In August, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko pardoned six jailed opposition activists, including Nikolai Statkevich, who was sentenced to six years in jail after running for the presidency in late 2010. In October, Lukashenko stormed to a declared 83% landslide election victory that extends his rule to more than 25 years since he came to power in 1994. 

The Council underlined that the release of the political prisoners was a long-sought step by the EU, and the decision to suspend most restrictive measures was aimed at "encouraging further positive developments" that would lead to an improvement of EU-Belarus relations.

"The EU will continue to closely monitor the situation of democracy and human rights in Belarus," the statatement reads.

Meanwhile, US Department of the Treasury announced that it will suspend sanctions against major Belarusian petrochemical companies and conglomerates on October 30. This decision was made "in consultation and coordination with the Department of State", the Treasury said in a statement.

"This authorisation expires on April 30, 2016, unless extended or revoked," the Treasury underlined. US authorities will suspend sanctions against the state-owned conglomerate Belneftekhim and its subsidiary Belneftekhim USA, Inc., Belarusian Oil Trade House, state-owned refinery Naftan, tire producer Belshina, petrochemical companies Grodno Azot, Grodno Khimvolokno, Lakokraska, Polotsk Steklovolokno. 

US persons engaging in transactions involving, directly or indirectly, any of these entities no later than 15 days after the execution of any such transaction in excess of $10,000, or any series of such transactions exceeding $10,000, are required report this to the US Department of State, Office of Eastern European Affairs.