The United States and its European allies have issued financial sanctions targeting senior officials in Belarus and police units that President Joe Biden’s administration accused of escalating political repression, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions target 16 individuals, including several senior Belarus government officials, the leader of the country’s National Assembly, and observers of the country’s most recent presidential elections that most Western countries consider fraudulent. U.S. businesses, banks, and individuals are all barred from making any financial transactions with the individuals hit with sanctions, which also freeze the assets of those individuals that are in U.S. jurisdiction. This follows a decision from the U.S. State Department to bar several dozen Belarusian officials from entering the United States.
In a joint statement from the U.S., the European Union, the U.K. and Canada, the countries voice their “deep concern” about the Belarus government’s “continuing attacks” on political opponents of the country’s leader, Alexander Lukashenko, including the forced diversion of a Ryanair flight carrying a dissident journalist on May 23.
“We are united in our deep concern regarding the Lukashenko regime’s continuing attacks on human rights, fundamental freedoms, and international law,” reads the statement.
The joint statement cites the forced landing “and the politically motivated arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich and his companion Sofia Sapega, as well as the continuing attack on human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
It notes that “We are committed to supporting the long-suppressed democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus and we stand together to impose costs on the regime for its blatant disregard of international commitments.
“We are united in calling for the regime to end its repressive practices against its own people,” it continues. “We are disappointed the regime has opted to walk away from its human rights obligations, adherence to democratic principles, and engagement with the international community. We are further united in our call for the Lukashenka regime to cooperate fully with international investigations into the events of 23 May; immediately release all political prisoners; implement all the recommendations of the independent expert mission under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Moscow Mechanism; and, enter into a comprehensive and genuine political dialogue between the authorities and representatives of the democratic opposition and civil society, facilitated by the OSCE.”
“The United States and its partners will not tolerate continued attacks on democracy and the ceaseless repression of independent voices in Belarus,” said Office of Foreign Assets Control Director Andrea M. Gacki in a statement. “Today’s actions, taken on both sides of the Atlantic, hold accountable those who continue to suppress the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people through abuses of human rights, attacks on the free press, and disregard for other fundamental freedoms. The recent forced diversion of Ryanair flight 4978 by the Belarusian government is one of many examples of the Lukashenka regime’s continued disregard for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Belarusian people in hopes of crushing the pro-democracy movement in Belarus.”
The Journal notes that Lukashenko and his government have denied the criticism leveled by the U.S. and its allies, and have claimed that the sanctions those countries have issued are a form of hybrid warfare against his administration.
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