Reuters: U.S. Likely To Renew Belarus’ Sanctions Relief Despite Crackdown On Protests And Arrests

American politicians will have to decide whether to prolong Belarus sanctions relief or reimpose them considering the latest political developments in the country. The decision will most likely be favourable to Belarus despite police violence against peaceful protesters, Reuters writes.

U.S. partially suspended sanctions against nine companies from Belarus in October 2015.

The list included Belneftekhim and its subsidiary in the USA (Belneftekhim USA), Belshina, Grodno Azot, Grodno Khimvolokno, Lakokraska, Naftan, Polotsk Steklovolokno.

Sanctions relief applies to major Belarusian companies: Belneftekhim and its subsidiary in the USA, Belshina, Grodno Azot, Grodno Khimvolokno, Lakokraska, Naftan (pictured), and Polotsk Steklovolokno.

The decision about relief was extended twice, in April and October 2016.

“Whether the United States renews the sanctions relief or instead returns to blacklisting nine major Belarus companies is an early test for the Trump administration on the importance it puts on human rights versus efforts to coax countries in Russia’s orbit to turn to the West,” Reuters writes.

According to Reuters, American officials are alarmed by the arrests of hundreds of people last month during a street protest in Minsk, and concerned if continuing sanctions relief could be seen as ignoring the crackdown. However, the Trump administration “is inclined to renew the sanctions relief, but likely would wait until the last minute”, a U.S. official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

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State and Treasury Department officials declined to comment in detail on the Belarus sanctions. The Belarus Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment, Reuters writes.

The suspension of restrictive measures against nine Belarusian enterprises was America’s response to the release of political prisoners in 2015, calm presidential elections in October of the same year and first opposition MPs in the parliament in 12 years after the elections of 2016.

At the same time, personal sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko and a number of officials and members of their families are still in force.

Source: Reuters, TUT.BY