New Zealand has joined the international pressure on the increasingly pariah government of Belarus by announcing that it has imposed travel bans on selected individuals associated with the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko.
The ban covers more than 50 people, including the president and key members of his administration, the electoral commission, the police and other security forces.
“New Zealand has made it clear that the Lukashenko regime’s actions are unacceptable,” Kiwi foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta said.
Decision prohibits the granting of visas to specific individuals
“[We are] joining our partners to prevent the granting of visas to specific individuals involved in these abuses.”
She said New Zealand had also expressed its strong concern about the forced landing of a Ryanair plane on 23 May and the arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega. It welcomed the launching of an investigation into this incident by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
The bans prevent targeted individuals from obtaining visas to enter or transit New Zealand. Based on ongoing developments, this list will be updated and revised.
“We continue to encourage Belarus to hold free and fair elections, and to uphold high standards of human rights,” Mahuta said.
EU has approved further sanctions after the Ryanair incident
In mid-week, the European Union approved new sanctions against Belarus that came in response to the Ryanair plane emergency landing in Minsk last month.
Relations between Belarus and Western countries – including the US, UK and EU – have been increasingly hostile following the Ryanair incident and last year’s presidential election in Belarus that saw Lukashenko secure his sixth term in office.
The election is regarded as being flawed due to fraud and intimidation, and opposition parties and anti-government figures have refused to recognise the results. The election was followed by mass protests, plunging the country into a political crisis.
A number of countries have now imposed travel bans, in many cases largely symbolic, on key people within the Belarus administration.