US joins Canada, United Kingdom, EU, with joint sanctions on Belarus

US joins Canada, United Kingdom, EU, with joint sanctions on Belarus
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The Biden administration on Monday imposed sanctions on dozens of Belarusian officials and a handful of entities in response to the crackdown on civil liberties by embattled Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenka. 

The sanctions were done in coordination with Canada, the United Kingdom and European Union and are in direct response to Lukashenka’s directive last month to force the landing of a European commercial flight and the politically-motivated arrest of an opposition journalist, Raman Pratasevich, and his girlfriend, Sofiya Sapega. 

“We are united in our deep concern regarding the Lukashenka regime’s continuing attacks on human rights, fundamental freedoms and international law,” read a statement jointly released by the four parties.

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“We are committed to support 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,” it continued. 

The Biden administration on Monday issued two tranches of sanctions. The first targeted 16 officials with close ties to Lukashenka, Europe’s so-called last dictator whose claim to power from August's presidential elections is considered fraudulent. 

They sanctions were also in response to Lukashenka’s “reckless forced diversion of a commercial Ryanair flight” on May 23, where Belarusian fighter jet forced the commercial airliner to land in Minsk during its flight path from Lithuania to Greece. 

Pratasevich, a 26-year-old journalist critical of the Lukashenka regime, and his girlfriend Sapega, were taken off the jet and arrested, and remain in Belarusian custody. 

“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 Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said in a statement.

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“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,” Gacki added.

Gacki continued, “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.”

In addition to individuals targeted, the Treasury Department also sanctioned five entities in relation to the Lukashenka government’s violent repression of peaceful protests against the fraudulent election results.

The sanctions block the individual's property or interests in property in the United States. Any persons with control of property owned by blacklisted individuals must report it to the Treasury Department. 

Sanctioned individuals include Lukashenka’s press secretary, the chairperson of the Belarusian Parliament’s upper house and leading officials of the judiciary and security sectors.

The second tranche of sanctions blacklisted for entry to the United States 46 Belarusian officials, who were targeted for their positions in “key” government agencies. 

“The United States continues to support international efforts to investigate electoral irregularities in the 2020 Belarusian Presidential election and the violent crackdown and abuses that ensued,” Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenBlinken urges Tunisian president to return country to 'democratic path as quickly as possible' Blinken calls US-India relationship 'vital' during official visit US sanctioning Syrian officials, groups over human rights abuses MORE said in a statement. “We stand with the people of Belarus in support of their fundamental freedoms.”