WASHINGTON, Sep 10 (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund announced on Friday that it would begin a virtual mission to Belarus amid concerns about the global lender’s disbursement of new emergency reserves to President Alexander Lukashenko’s government.
The staff mission is part of the IMF’s economic oversight and surveillance mandate and aims to gather more information on economic developments in Belarus and its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, an IMF spokesman said.
The mission will begin on Monday, said a source familiar with the plans who was not allowed to speak publicly.
It comes days after the leaders of Russia and Belarus agreed to create a unified oil and gas market and deepen economic integration https://www.reuters.com/world/russia-belarus-agree-closer-energy-economic -integration -2021-09-09 in light of what they see as unjustified western sanctions against their two economies.
Western governments have imposed sanctions to increase pressure on Lukashenko, who is accused of rigging elections in August 2020 and cracking down on the opposition in order to extend his 27-year term in office. Lukashenko denies manipulating the vote.
Russia is also under Western sanctions for its treatment of Ukraine.
The IMF said last month it is closely monitoring https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/imf-keeping-close-watch-belarus-after-calls-limit-reserve-funds-country-2021-08-13 in Belarus, however, granted Lukashenko’s hard-line government access to nearly $ 1 billion in new Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), the IMF’s own reserve currency, as part of a broader allocation of $ 650 billion to all IMF members.
Some US lawmakers had asked the IMF to restrict the government’s access to the funds.
The online interviewing mission will lay the groundwork for a full Article IV economic surveillance mission in December. Such reviews are carried out regularly by the global lender. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Edwina Gibbs)
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