Tuesday, 10 May 2022
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
78. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if sanctions will be imposed on the Belarusian Government for its role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22870/22]
There are many in this Chamber who found it difficult to stand and applaud a foreign dignitary when he addressed this Chamber not so long ago. I am not one of those Deputies. The majority of Deputies on the Government benches are not either. That said, will the Minister outline any additional sanctions that are likely to be considered here in relation to Belarus?
I thank the Deputy. It is important that this House focuses on Belarus's role in this war as well as Russia's because Belarus has been complicit in much of what has happened.
The EU has condemned Belarus's involvement in Russia's unprovoked and unjustified military invasion of Ukraine. In response to the invasion, since late February, the EU has adopted a wide range of sanctions measures targeting both Russia and Belarus. A sixth sanctions package is currently under discussion and is expected to be adopted in the coming days.
These sanctions measures build on separate measures introduced by the EU following the fraudulent presidential elections in Belarus in August 2020. Since October 2020, the EU has introduced a number of packages of Belarus sanctions in response to, among other things, unacceptable violence by the Belarusian authorities against peaceful protesters, the instrumentalisation of migrants for political purposes and hybrid attacks at the EU's borders.
Significant restrictions have already been placed on trade between the EU and Belarus, in particular, on goods used for the production of tobacco products, mineral fuels and gaseous hydrocarbon products as well as potash, wood, cement, iron, steel and rubber products. Restrictions have also been imposed on exports to Belarus of dual-use goods and technology that might contribute to Belarus' military, technological, defence and security development.
In addition, a range of measures targets the Belarusian financial sector. Three Belarusian banks have been removed from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, SWIFT, financial messaging system and transactions with the Central Bank of Belarus are prohibited. Furthermore, limits have been placed on financial inflows from Belarus to the EU by prohibiting the acceptance of deposits exceeding €100,000 from Belarusian nationals or residents, the holding of accounts of Belarusian clients by the EU central securities depositories as well as the selling of euro-denominated securities to Belarusian clients. The provision of euro-denominated bank notes to Belarus is also prohibited. Lastly, a ban has been placed on the listing and provision of services in relation to shares of Belarusian state-owned entities on EU trading venues.
The sanctions adopted since February 2022 include asset freezes and travel bans targeting 42 Belarusian military personnel.
Belarus' actions go back to, as the Minister mentioned in his response, the fraudulent presidential election in 2020. A number of sanctions were imposed at that time. Subsequently, their involvement in the war in Ukraine has led to further sanctions.
I welcome all the measures that have been taken heretofore. I understand that we are working with our EU colleagues and partners in terms of the six packages, as the Minister mentioned. I would implore the Minister, as, in fairness, he has done in the past, to ensure that Ireland would be at the forefront in calling for those further sanctions and that those sanctions would be robust and deal severe consequences to Belarus.
I note that the G7 met a number of days ago. Out of their discussions, there was a further ban on palladium, potassium and other metals and chemicals. I would hope that we follow in a similar vein as we have heretofore. I urge the Minister that Ireland would follow-up robustly.
There are many in this House who have a knowledge and connection with Belarus - I suspect Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan is probably one of them - as have I. Since the fraudulent presidential elections, the European Union has focused on trying to support and facilitate democracy in Belarus. Certainly, the facilitation by the Belarusian authorities of a Russian military build-up in Belarus in order to facilitate the invasion of Ukraine also makes the Belarusian authorities complicit in what has happened.
What we are trying to do within the European Union is ensure that whatever sanctions we are applying to Russia are also fully replicated in the context of Belarus so that we can, as I say, create the maximum possible deterrent for the continuation of this war across both Russia and Belarus.
The Minister voiced the sentiments I was going to finish on with regard to Belarus and its conduct. I hope the role it played in facilitating this war will not be forgotten, because it has facilitated it at every corner. It has facilitated the Russian regime by giving it a base for launching attacks and so forth. I also urge that its Government's actions not be forgotten when this sorry tale is finally brought to a conclusion. I hope people here do not forget the actions of those who have facilitated propaganda on the European stage and have been an embarrassment to this country. I would liken Lukashenko's relationship with Putin to Clare Daly MEP and Mick Wallace MEP in terms of their promotion of Russian propaganda. I hope that will not be forgotten here when this is brought to a conclusion.
My focus is to do everything we can as a country and as a member of the European Union to bring this war to an end and to promote democracy in Belarus to ensure that the people there get the government and the president they elect, as opposed to skewed election results. The only tools we have available to us for doing that for now are sanctions. Belarus is so reliant on Russia now for its security that, unfortunately, the current Belarusian regime is shackled to the decisions of the Kremlin. We have to treat both in the context of the deterrents we are putting in place for the continuation of this war. It is to be hoped we can move beyond that in time when this war comes to an end, but for now the focus has got to be on ending the violence and brutality we see in Ukraine, which has to a certain extent been facilitated through Belarus.