EU ambassadors on Wednesday approved a new slate of sanctions targeting Belarus after Russia used the country as a base to launch its invasion of Ukraine.
The penalties target portions of the Belarusian economy, “in particular the wood, steel and potash sectors,” the rotating French EU presidency said on Twitter. They also hit “officials and military involved in the Russian aggression against Ukraine.”
For the past several months, Belarus has allowed tens of thousands of Russian troops onto its territory for what was initially described as military drills. But last week, those Russian troops became part of a multi-front assault on Ukraine.
Ukraine on Tuesday also claimed Belarus had sent its own forces into Ukraine, but a U.S. defense official hours later said it had seen “no indication” of that. Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko also denied any direct involvement.
The latest EU sanctions come after the U.K. on Tuesday authorized its own initial tranche of penalties against Belarus over the support Minsk has given Moscow throughout its military build-up and subsequent attack on Ukraine. The U.S. last week also hit Belarus with its own penalties.
Belarus is already under heavy EU, U.S. and U.K. sanctions over Lukashenko’s increasingly repressive behavior at home. For months, he has led a violent crackdown on domestic dissent following an election widely seen as fraudulent. And last summer, he forced down a Ryanair flight to detain a dissident journalist.
Prior EU sanctions have targeted the Belarus banking, oil, tobacco and fertilizer sectors, as well as a large crop of regime-connected companies and individuals.
Wednesday’s sanctions on the Belarus potash sector are notable, as it’s a key export for the country and used in many European countries for various products.
Since Russia launched its war on Ukraine, the EU has separately hit Russia with increasingly severe penalties in a joint effort with Western allies to economically sever much of the country from the international market.