Lithuania, Belarus and North Korea: EU sanctions over Pyongyang

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite wants more time for talks with Russia to reach a compromise on gas prices

The European Union has imposed fresh sanctions on Belarus over its alleged support for North Korea’s nuclear programme.

The EU also agreed new restrictions on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s government’s support for extremism and meddling in neighbouring states.

The sanctions were based on allegations made by the Council of Europe in an analysis of the country’s economy.

Russia has previously threatened sanctions over the accusations, but EU leaders have stood by their allies.

The Council report confirmed allegations against Belarusian state banks and Belarusian government businesses that back North Korea’s nuclear programme, Russia’s Sputnik news agency reported.

“The sanctions are aimed at preventing Belarus’ development of a North Korean trade and investment strategy,” the report said.

Along with the Belarusian economy, the Council also imposed sanctions on ruling party officials, state companies and military personnel involved in foreign relations and politically related intelligence services.

EU leaders also agreed at a summit in Brussels on Thursday to extend sanctions on Russia until the end of the year, saying they would also come into force on 1 January if Moscow did not compromise with its neighbours.

‘Appropriate response’

Both EU leaders and the head of Nato had warned that any further actions taken against Russia would be “appropriate”.

Earlier this week, a report by the Council of Europe said the North Korea project amounted to an illegal state sponsored company that currently yielded the country $13m (£10.9m) a year in export revenues.

It added that it suspected that financial experts were present at Belarusian government-linked companies in the country.

The Council of Europe report also said there was evidence to suggest that Moscow was funding North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme and also supplying military equipment to Pyongyang.

Analysts warned that it could prove tricky for the EU to enforce the sanctions on Belarus because President Lukashenko has used his allies for political leverage over their governments in neighbouring countries.

He has backed out of deals or is accused of fixing international decisions against Moscow.

He is known to use his control over the country’s energy reserves to keep the economy afloat.

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