9 August, the first anniversary of the rigged elections held in Belarus saw a escalation of the sanctions in a coordinated move by the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Switzerland, to hold Belarus President Lukaskenka accountable for his regime’s continuous crackdown on opposition and brutalisation of voices raised for democracy.
The expanded sanctions regime imposes prohibitions on multiple critical sectors. Restrictions put in force by each country similarly prohibit trading in financial instruments, transferable securities, credits, insurances, commercial papers Belarus or a Belarussian authority, Belarusbank, Belinvestbank, Belagroprombank. Vital Belarusian industries, from transportation to construction, tobacco products to petroleum, security to potassium chloride came under scrutiny.
In pursuant of the U.S. President Joe Biden’s executive order expanding the scope of sanctions on Belarus, the U.S. Treasury designated 23 individuals and 21 entities which included, unprecedentedly, the Belarusian National Olympic committee (NOC) which the treasury defined the as a tool for Lukashenka to circumvent restrictions.
The choice of sectors, including potash, demonstrate a continuous commitment on part of the U.S. the U.K. and the EU, to focus on Belarus President Lukashenka’s “crony capitalism”, family members, oligarchs who benefit from his power. Belaruskali OAO, a leading potash producer has been known to fill the coffers of Lukashenka’s government, is among sanctioned entities.
The Swiss and E.U. sanctioning the sales or transfer of software and tech for “telecoms interpretation and monitoring” – in addition to embargoes on arms and possible instruments for internal repression – reminds the crucial power of new technology in quelling dissent and how it can be made a dystopian surveillance instrument in the hands of governments.
In 2020, Synesis LLC, the famous Belarussian monitoring and facial recognition was hit by EU sanctions, on the grounds of deploying its tech solutions to the regime in order to identify dissidents and protesters. A company with a nebulous fact sheet, Synesis was on its way to secure an international market presence by the time it was made target by the E.U. sanctioning authorities.
Among the industries at the crosshairs of reinforced sanctions rests the Belarussian state enterprise tobacco firm GTF Neman, purveyor of cheap tobacco and related products flooding the European market, which also produced cigarettes under British American Tobacco license.
The FAQ addendum to the Executive Order makes clear that the identification of industries do not indicate a blanket sanction on actors operating in the sectors specified, and only persons designated on OFAC’s SDN list and entities owned by the designated are the subject of sanctions.