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EU Extends Belarus Arms Embargo

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (left) meets with EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn in Minsk last year.

BRUSSELS -- EU ambassadors on February 20 extended for another year an arms embargo against Belarus and sanctions on four Belarusian citizens.

The embargo, which has been extended annually since its introduction in 2011, does not provide for any new exemptions.

During the rollover process in the last two years, Hungary managed to exempt biathlon rifles and other arms used in sports.

This year, Hungary initially wanted to link the extension of the embargo with the swift adoption of the Belarus Partnership Priorities, an EU document outlining the bloc's future relationship with Minsk in areas such as people-to-people contacts, environmental issues, economic cooperation, and human rights that has been under negotiation for two years.

The Partnership Priorities document was close to being signed in 2018, but Lithuania insisted on including several safeguards regarding the Astravyets nuclear power plant that is being built with Russian assistance in Belarus just 50 kilometers from the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.

Under pressure from the other 27 EU member states earlier in February, Budapest backed down on the demand to formally link the two issues, but there was an agreement that Belarus would host what sources call "a high-level event" within the framework of the Eastern Partnership in October.

The four people who are on the visa-ban and asset-freeze list are considered to have played key roles in the unresolved disappearances of four Belarusians in 1999-2000.

With reporting by Rikard Jozwiak

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