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Volodymyr Ohryzko: If no sanctions are imposed on Lukashenko regime, Western powers will testify to their toothlessness

22:30, 24 May 2021
2 min. 2307 Interview

Ukraine's former Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko sat down with UNIAN to explain why Ukraine will have to sacrifice "good relations" with Belarus, whether it is possible that the scenario of Roman Protasevich's "detention" was written in Moscow, and why the collective West needs to apply harsh sanctions against the dictator over his actions.

The move by Belarus authorities forcing to land in Minsk Ryanair's plane flying from Athens to Vilnius and carrying among other passengers a founder of the NEXTA Telegram channel that covered Belarus protests, Roman Protasevich, outraged the world and provoked a sharp reaction. The EU has warned Belarus of the consequences, now planning to discuss the issue at the level of Bloc leaders. In Ukraine, the Government will meet for an extraordinary meeting on May 25.

UNIAN spoke with former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Volodymyr Ohryzko, who believes that new sanctions against Minsk could be drafted within 24 hours but the collective West could once again testify to its toothlessness.

In your opinion, what will be the West's response to the incident with the plane forced to land in Minsk in a pirate style? Will any new sanctions be imposed?

If there are no sanctions, the West will testify to its toothlessness. This will mean that both Belarus and Russia can do whatever they want, suppressing anyone. This is an act of terror – there is no doubt about it. A political decision must be made in this case. If it is, there will be sanctions. There's no problem in formulating them. But if there is no political will, there will be more talk about how bad this is, and that will be it.

Both political and economic sanctions could be imposed. I prefer the latter as they can actually affect the situation in the country. There's a variety of such sanctions: from banning the transit of goods through Belarus to and from Russia, the flights of Belarusian planes across Europe, or purchases of Belarusian goods... There are dozens of such options. But this is not the main thing. Specialists could sit down and draft a proposal within 24 hours. The question is whether the collective West is ready to take tough steps.

REUTERS

If there comes another weak package of sanctions, for Putin, Lukashenko, and all the dictators out there in the post-Soviet space, it will mean they can do the same, or even more brazen things.

And do you think the collective West is ready for such tough steps?

In a day or two, we will see.

Should we wait for the EU's reaction or start developing such sanctions on our own?

We can show solidarity with the European position and we can do it independently. We are an independent state. I think the most effective option in common stance with the EU. This would once again show we seek to work in the same political team with the EU.

But there will probably also be those who will say there is no need to rush, that this will have a negative impact on Ukraine as well, arguing that we are neighbors and that we have close economic ties.

Sanctions certainly have a negative effect on those imposing them. But there are principles that are more valuable.

In your opinion, could Russia stand behind this terrorist attack (such a scenario is already being discussed)? Could it be that they plotted this all to have even more leverage over Alexander Lukashenko?

There must be grounds for allegations, otherwise they will be political fantasies. It is clear though that the Lukashenko and Putin regimes are united by rejection of opposition, their attempts to suppress opposition in every way possible. You see how Moscow poisons Navalny, bans everything related to freedom of press and speech... Minsk starts hijacking planes… These things unite them. They support each other and rejoice over each other's success. I have no doubt about that. Nothing can be ruled out, but nothing can be confirmed yet.

Vlad Abramov

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