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Western Allies Slap Fresh Sanctions On Belarus


Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka
Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka

The United States, the European Union, Britain, and Canada have slapped a fresh round of coordinated sanctions on Belarus in response to the regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka's mounting repression against the political opposition and the free media.

"These coordinated designations demonstrate the steadfast transatlantic commitment to supporting the Belarusian people's democratic aspirations," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on June 21, as the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on 16 individuals and five entities.

The Treasury said the move was coordinated with the United States' international partners and was meant to hold to account Lukashenka's regime for its ongoing abuses and violations of international norms, including its forced diversion of a commercial Ryanair flight and arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega last month.

"The persons designated today have harmed the people of Belarus through their activities surrounding the fraudulent August 9, 2020, presidential election in Belarus and the ensuing brutal crackdown on protesters, journalists, members of the opposition, and civil society," the Treasury said in a press statement.

Among the entities blacklisted by the Treasury were the main Belarusian security service, the KGB, the Internal Troops of the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Belarus, and the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption, known as the GUBOPIK, who were all involved in the postelection repression.

Prosecutor-General Andrey Ivanavich Shved, who has "filed politically motivated terrorism charges and extradition requests against presidential candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya," and Mikalay Karpyankou, Belarus’s deputy interior minister and the current commander of the ministry's internal troops were among the blacklisted individuals.

Lukashenka's press secretary, Natallya Eismant, and his former chief of staff, Natallya Kachanava, who is currently the leader of Belarus's upper house of parliament, are also listed among the blacklisted individuals.

"The United States and its partners will not tolerate continued attacks on democracy and the ceaseless repression of independent voices in Belarus," Andrea Gacki, director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in the statement.

EU Sanctions

In Luxembourg, EU foreign ministers on June 21 agreed to sanction key sectors of the Belarusian economy and major revenue sources for the regime: potash fertilizer exports, the tobacco industry, petroleum, and petrochemical products.

The measures include a ban on sales of surveillance equipment to Belarus and tightening of an arms embargo.

Crisis In Belarus

Read our coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election.

The ministers also officially signed off on adding 78 additional individuals and eight entities to an assets freeze and visa ban blacklist.

Seven people -- including the defense and transport ministers -- were sanctioned for the forced landing of the Ryanair passenger jet.

The remaining 71 individuals -- including Russian tycoon Mikhail Gutseriyev, Lukashenka's son, Dzmitry, and his eldest son's wife, Liliya, were also put on the sanctions list for "benefiting from and supporting the Lukashenka regime."

The list also includes lawmakers, prosecutors, judges, and other officials who the bloc says are "responsible for serious human rights violations and for seriously undermining the rule of law, as well as for the repression of civil society and democratic opposition."

"Today we have confirmed and decided that sectoral sanctions will be taken against Belarus, which will have a severe impact on the Belarusian economy," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said ahead of the meeting.

"We want the release of the political prisoners, an end to the violence against protesters and the opposition, and an inclusive dialogue that will lead to free and fair elections."

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said earlier that the economic sanctions should be confirmed after a summit of the 27-member bloc's leaders in Brussels later this week.

"We're going to hurt the economy of Belarus heavily," Borrell said.

EU's trade with Belarus amounted to more than 10 billion euros ($11.9 billion) in 2020.

Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who insists she rightfully won last year's presidential election, welcomed the inclusion of business tycoons and top officials on the blacklist.

"It's a rather strong sanction list," she told a press conference in Brussels.

In London, the British government announced travel bans and asset freezes against 11 "senior-ranking officials" as well two entities.

Britain said its sanctions were imposed separately to the EU, which it left last year, but in coordination to those announced by Washington, Ottawa, and Brussels.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: "The Lukashenka regime endangered the lives of airline passengers and crew in a shameful ruse to snatch Raman Pratasevich."

"We will hold the regime to account in coordination with our allies including through further banning travel, freezing assets, and cutting off oil export revenue streams."

In September 2020, London announced sanctions on human rights grounds against Lukashenka, his son, and senior figures in the Belarusian government.

The Canadian Foreign Ministry also announced in a statement sanctions against 17 Belarusian individuals and five entities.

With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa, and TASS
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