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Biden warns sanctions could be imposed on Belarus after opposition journalist detained

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Alexander Lukashenko, the autocratic president of Belarus, is accused of using massive fraud to steal his 2020 re-election and of the violent mistreatment of protesters in a democracy movement.

President Biden warned Tuesday that the U.S. could impose sanctions on Belarus after its brazen detention of an opposition journalist sparked international backlash. 

“That’s in play,” Biden told reporters Tuesday when asked about possible sanctions. “I don’t want to speculate until we get it done.”

The warning came days after Belarus deployed a fighter jet and sent out a phony security alert to force a plane traveling from Greece to Lithuana to land once it was in the country’s airspace. Rama Pratasevich, a 26-year-old opposition activist and journalist, was promptly arrested once the craft landed.

European Union leaders announced Monday they will impose additional economic sanctions on Belarus, and Biden that day said the U.S. was exploring its options to punish the country.

“I join the many calls for an international investigation to ascertain the complete facts of the case. I welcome the news that the European Union has called for targeted economic sanctions and other measures, and have asked my team to develop appropriate options to hold accountable those responsible, in close coordination with the European Union, other allies and partners, and international organizations,” Biden said in a statement.

“For months, the Belarusian people have made their voices heard—demanding democracy, respect for human rights, and the preservation of fundamental freedoms,” he added. “I applaud the courage and determination of Belarusians fighting for basic rights, including journalists like Raman Pratasevich and opposition leaders like Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and her husband, Syarhey Tsikhanouski. The United States will continue to stand with the people of Belarus in their struggle.” 

Belarus has been ruled by an iron first by strongman Alexander Lukashenko for decades. Protests erupted in the country after his disputed victory in the 2020 presidential election, but demonstrations have been quelled following a harsh crackdown by Belarusian authorities.

Tags Alexander Lukashenko Belarusian presidential election Joe Biden
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