On 29 October 2015, the Council of the European Union announced that it had suspended sanctions against 170 individuals and three entities in Belarus until 29 February 2016. The decision came as a result of the release of political prisoners on 22 August 2015 and the presidential election on 11 October 2015, which the EU considered had been held in “a peaceful environment”.

Existing EU sanctions on Belarus were imposed in response to serious human rights violations and the repression of civil society and democratic opposition in the country. The sanctions imposed travel bans and asset freezes on President Alexander Lukashenko, Belarusian officials and other individuals and entities identified as benefiting from or supporting the Lukashenko regime.

The Council took the decision in order to encourage developments that would improve “EU-Belarus relations”. An arms embargo will remain in place, and there will be no suspension of the sanctions against four members of President Lukashenko’s security services suspected to be involved in the unresolved disappearances of political opponents. The Council stated that the EU will continue to monitor the situation in Belarus closely.

The measures will take effect on 31 October 2015, pursuant to Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/1949 implementing Council Regulation (EC) 765/2006 and Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/1957 amending Council Decision 2012/642/CFSP.