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EU to blacklist about 40 Belarusian officials on Friday

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is not on the list

BRUSSELS, October 2. /TASS/. On Friday, the European Union will blacklist about 40 Belarusian officials whom it accuses of election meddling and human rights violations in the country, President of the European Council Charles Michel said.

"We decided to implement the sanctions that we had approved in August. This means that tomorrow [on Friday] the blacklist of about 40 names will be implemented via a written procedure," he said.

Michel told reporters after the EU summit, which began on Thursday and ended after midnight Moscow time, that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was not on the list.

In turn, French President Emmanuel Macron said Lukashenko was not blacklisted, because this would have undermined the EU demand to launch dialogue with the opposition, mediated by the OSCE.

"The EU did not impose personal sanctions on Lukashenko, because this would have undermined Brussels’ requirements to launch the dialogue with the opposition, mediated by the OSCE, and to free political prisoners," Macron told reporters. "This [EU sanctions] would have given Lukashenko legitimate grounds for rejecting those demands."

The EU compiled a blacklist of Belarusian officials Brussels considers "responsible for election fraud and police violence" on August 14. However, its introduction was blocked by Cyprus. In exchange for the approval Cyprus called for the adoption of sanctions against Turkey, which is conducting geological exploration of gas fields in the disputed waters off the island. However, in the course of Thursday’s summit, Cyprus apparently revoked its veto. In return, the EU vowed to slap Ankara with sanctions if it refuses to stop its unilateral provocations by the year-end.

Nationwide demonstrations have engulfed Belarus following the August 9 presidential election. According to the Central Election Commission’s official results, incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko won by a landslide, garnering 80.10% of the vote. His closest rival in the race, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, came in second, with 10.12% of the ballot. However, she refused to recognize the election’s outcome, and left Belarus for Lithuania. After the results of the exit polls were announced late on August 9, mass protests erupted in downtown Minsk and other Belarusian cities. During the early post-election period, the rallies snowballed into fierce clashes between the protesters and police. The current unrest is being cheered on by the opposition’s Coordination Council, which has been beating the drum for more protests. In response, the Belarusian authorities have castigated the ongoing turmoil and demanded that these unauthorized demonstrations be stopped.