WILMINGTON, Del. – President Joe Biden said on Monday that the United States was imposing new sanctions on Belarus, marking the first anniversary of the election of Alexander Lukashenko, which the United States and the international community said was riddled with irregularities .
In announcing the sanctions, the White House also noted the forced landing of a European airliner circulating in the country’s airspace in order to arrest a prominent opposition journalist on board.
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Among those cited by the Treasury Department in the new sanctions are Belaruskali OAO, which is one of Belarus’ largest state-owned enterprises and a source of wealth for the regime; the Belarusian National Olympic Committee; and 15 private companies, including the prominent Belarusian bank Absolutbank, which have links to the Lukashenko regime.
The Belarusian Olympic committee has been accused of facilitating money laundering, evasion of sanctions and circumvention of visa bans. The International Olympic Committee also reprimanded him for his failure to protect Belarusian athletes from political discrimination and repression.
“It is the responsibility of all who care about human rights, free and fair elections and free speech to oppose this oppression,” Biden said in a statement. “The United States will continue to defend human rights and freedom of expression, while holding Lukashenka accountable, along with our allies and partners.
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Lukashenko won a sixth term in last year’s vote which the opposition and many in the West see as fraudulent.
The belief that the vote had been stolen sparked mass protests in Belarus that led to increased repression by the Lukashenko regime against protesters, dissidents and independent media. More than 35,000 people have been arrested and thousands have been beaten and imprisoned.
Lukashenko has earned the nickname “Europe’s last dictator” in the West for his relentless crackdown on dissent since taking office in 1994.
Last week, Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, an Olympic sprinter who feared reprisals at home for criticizing her coaches, fled the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Poland.
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The Biden administration called on the Lukashenko regime to allow an independent international investigation into the Ryanair hijacking, release all political prisoners; and start talks with figures from the democratic opposition and civil society that will lead to a free and fair presidential election under the observation of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
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