The EU on Wednesday launched a procedure to sanction Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, his son Viktor and 13 others held responsible for a post-election crackdown in the former Soviet state, diplomatic sources in Brussels said.
The green light to ban visas and freeze the assets of Lukashenko and the 14 others was given by envoys from the EU's 27 member states and should be confirmed in the bloc's official journal by Friday, they said.
The EU has already imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 40 Lukashenko allies for rigging an election in August that returned him to power and for orchestrating a crackdown on mass protests that have rocked the country since the vote.
The bloc had held back from penalising Lukashenko, hoping to persuade him to engage in dialogue with opposition forces to resolve the crisis.
However, this hope was not fulfilled and in mid-October, EU foreign ministers gave the go-ahead in principle to take action against the leader.
Lukashenko is "responsible for the violent repression by the state apparatus before and after the 2020 presidential elections", said the sanctions decision seen by AFP.
It also handed him responsibility for the exclusion of important opposition candidates in the election, "arbitrary arrests and the ill-treatment of peaceful demonstrators, as well as intimidation and violence against journalists".
The EU is also targeting Lukashenko's son Viktor, who is an acting national security advisor in Belarus.
Among the other persons involved are the Lukashenko's chief of staff, Igor Sergeenko, the head of the KGB secret service, Ivan Tertel, and the leader's press officer.
The EU rejected the results of the August 9 election and said it did not regard Lukashenko as the legitimate president.