UK bans gold imports from Belarus 'to close loophole in Russian sanctions'

Restrictions also imposed on export of banknotes, cement, wood and rubber to Belarus

Shoppers at a jewellers' shop in Hatton Garden, London. Getty Images
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Belarusian gold imports have been banned in the UK under new sanctions targeting the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko over his support for Russia.

Restrictions have also been imposed on the buying of cement, wood and rubber from Belarus, commodities which are “sources of revenue for the Lukashenko regime”, the Foreign Office in London said. The measures enable the UK to “crack down on Russia’s efforts to circumvent sanctions”, the department said.

Banknotes, machinery, goods, technologies and materials that could be used to produce chemical and biological weapons will also be blocked from being sent to the landlocked country bordering Russia and Ukraine.

James Cleverly, the British foreign secretary, said the new package of measures would be felt by Mr Lukashenko and his inner circle.

The package grants Rishi Sunak’s government the power to prevent designated Belarusian media companies from “spreading propaganda in the UK, including over the internet”.

Belarus continues to “actively facilitate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”, 16 months into the war, the Foreign Office said.

Mr Lukashenko, described as "Europe’s last dictator", is a staunch ally of President Vladimir Putin and has allowed his country to be used as a training ground for Russian troops and a launchpad for them to invade Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during a meeting in Sochi, Russia. EPA

“This new package ratchets up the economic pressure on Lukashenko and his regime which actively facilitates the Russian war effort and ignores Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” Mr Cleverly said.

“Our support for Ukraine will remain resolute for as long as it takes and the UK will not hesitate to introduce further measures against those who prop up Putin’s war.”

The changes aim to close loopholes in existing sanctions, which would allow gold originating in Russia to be marketed as a Belarusian product and sold to UK buyers.

Belarus’s access to UK financial markets will be further tightened, and travel bans and asset freezes can be imposed on family members of sanctioned individuals.

Last summer, the UK introduced bans on the import and export of goods worth about £60 million from Belarus. Oil, iron and steel were among the materials affected.

Mr Lukashenko has continued to stick by his friend Mr Putin in the face of global condemnation and sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

Putin ally Lukashenko makes unannounced visit to Russia

Putin ally Lukashenko makes unannounced visit to Russia

The Belarusian leader on Thursday backed Moscow’s claim that Ukraine blew up the Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric station, which lies along the Dnipro river in the Russian-occupied Kherson region of Ukraine. The explosion, which Kyiv blamed on Moscow, unleashed serious flooding in nearby communities.

“They needed to cover up the three days of their ‘counteroffensive’ in which they lost nearly 200 armoured vehicles and more than 2,000 troops,” Mr Lukashenko said. “And so it’s all about Kakhovka and no one is talking about that. It’s quite obvious.”

In the wake of the incident on Tuesday, at least 4,000 people have been evacuated from the Russian and Ukrainian-controlled sides of the Dnipro river, an official said.

Updated: June 08, 2023, 12:44 PM