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Belarus leader among 118 on Lithuania's sanctions list

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — While the European Union considers who in Belarus should be sanctioned for alleged election fraud and police brutality, EU member Lithuania proposed its own list Wednesday of those it holds responsible for vote-rigging and violence against peaceful protesters.

The list includes Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s authoritarian leader of 26 years. Official results of an Aug. 9 presidential election handed Lukashenko a sixth term with 80% of the vote, results that opposition activists have rejected and the EU has questioned.

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry proposed sanctions against 118 individuals suspected of involvement in brutal crackdowns on protesters demanding Lukashenko's resignation. Thirty of them are suspected of vote-rigging in Belarus.

The list includes people responsible for “the use of violence and, possibly, even crimes against their citizens,” Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said, according to Baltic News Service. He said that on the list were members of the Belarusian special police force, Belarus’ secret services, the prosecutor’s office and the country's electoral commission.

“At least these people won’t be able to come here for shopping after beating people at home,” Linkevicius said. The list will be reviewed by Lithuanian Interior Minister Rita Tamasuniene, who holds final authority to decide on imposing sanctions. If approved, the sanctioned individuals would be banned from entering neighboring Lithuania, which is north of Belarus.

An Interior Ministry spokeswoman told The Associated Press that the sanctions list would be signed “within a couple of days.” EU leaders have said they are preparing a list of Belarusians who face sanctions over vote fraud and the crackdown on protesters. EU foreign ministers plan to discuss the issue during an informal two-day meeting in Berlin starting Thursday. A decision is expected in September at the earliest.

People on the EU sanctions list would be barred from entering the bloc's 27 member countries and have their assets frozen. Belarus is not an EU member. The relatively small EU nation of Lithuania has played a major role as the protests in Belarus unfold by giving opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya refuge. The official election results gave Tsikhanouskaya, a former English teacher and wife of a jailed blogger, 10% of the vote.

Another two Baltic nations and EU members, Latvia and Estonia, are also working on their sanctions lists that would bar Belarus officials from entering their territory. Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said his government was coordinating with Lithuania and Estonia, according to the BNS agency.

“Our goal is EU sanctions,” Rinkevics said. “We are taking this path to send a clear signal that we do not want to see a number of officials in our country and (we are) also urging the EU to work faster.”

Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.

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