The European Union remains concerned about the human rights situation in Belarus under President Alexander Lukashenko and has decided to impose more sanctions on those with close ties to the regime.
Hundreds were arrested after disputed elections last year
European Union foreign ministers agreed to extend sanctions against Belarus on Monday. In addition to adding more names to a growing list of Minsk officials with travel bans and asset freezes, the EU has for the first time targeted the country's business sector.
Diplomats told reporters that the measures include the imposition of an asset freeze on Vladimir Peftiev, an arms tycoon and economic advisor to strongman President Alexander Lukashenko. Peftiev's three firms - the arms company Beltechexport, telecoms operator Beltelcom and marketing business Sport-Pari - were also targeted.
In 2010 Forbes magazine listed Peftiev as the wealthiest man in Belarus and listed his worth as $1 billion (700 million euros).
The government's crackdown on the opposition following a disputed election late last year has been internationally condemned. There are concerns about violence against protesters, detention of opposition leaders and the gagging of independent media.
December's election handed Lukashenko a fourth term with a landslide victory that European observers described as unfair. Tens of thousands of people protested against the result; hundreds of them were arrested and two former opposition candidates have been found guilty of organizing actions that violated public order.
Author: Holly Fox (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Michael Lawton