The European Union has lifted most sanctions against Belarus despite concerns about political repression and human rights abuses.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels agreed unanimously to end asset freezes and travel bans against 170 individuals including the president, Alexander Lukashenko, citing “improving EU-Belarus relations”.
Sanctions were also lifted against three defence companies with close ties to the government: Beltech Holding, Beltechexport and Spetspriborservice.
The ministers retained sanctions against four members of Lukashenko’s security service suspected of involvement in the disappearance of four political opponents in 1999-2000. An arms embargo also remains in place.
Lukashenko, dubbed Europe’s last dictator by the George W Bush administration, swept to a fifth term as president last October following elections that independent observers said were marred by significant flaws.