The European Union has news for Belarus’s Alexander Lukashenko: you’re grounded. The long-time president and 156 of his close associates (including his two sons) are banned from travelling to EU countries as punishment for the imprisonment of political opponents who protested the Dec. 19 election. Lukashenko claims to have garnered 80 per cent of the vote that saw him win a fourth presidential term, but international monitors say the election was fraudulent.
The ban is the latest in a raft of sanctions against Lukashenko’s regime, dubbed “the last remaining true dictatorship in the heart of Europe” by former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice (the U.S. has also imposed new travel sanctions, in addition to upholding its existing ban on deals with Belarus’s state-controlled oil monopoly). The EU first imposed a travel ban on Lukashenko in 2006, but lifted it two years later in a bid to encourage reform. Siarhey Kastsian, head of the Belarusian parliament’s committee on international affairs, said the bans don’t mean much: “These visa bans are political barbarism from the Middle Ages,” he told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. “Will they affect Lukashenko? Not at all.”