Biden administration toughens sanctions on Belarus

Biden administration toughens sanctions on Belarus
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President BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Did President Biden institute a vaccine mandate for only half the nation's teachers? Democrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms MORE on Monday signed an executive order expanding the sanctions on the government of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, one year after the country held what was widely considered to be a fraudulent election that kept Lukashenko in power.

Biden's order allows the U.S. government to impose sanctions on additional members of the Lukashenko government, including individuals operating in the security, energy, tobacco, construction and transportation sectors of the Belarusian economy, the White House said.

The Treasury Department is also issuing its largest round of sanctions to date against members of the government, as well as the Belarus Olympic Committee, which is accused of money laundering, and Belaruskali OAO, a state-owned company that is said to provide illicit funds for the government.

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The additional actions come as the U.S. and its allies seek to increase the pressure on Lukashenko while he continues to quash dissent and tighten his hold on power.

"One year ago today, the people of Belarus sought to make their voices heard and shape their own future through that most basic expression of democracy—an election. Rather than respect the clear will of the Belarusian people, the Lukashenka regime perpetrated election fraud, followed by a brutal campaign of repression to stifle dissent," Biden said in a statement.

"The United States will continue to stand up for human rights and free expression, while holding the Lukashenka accountable, in concert with our allies and partners," Biden added.

Belarus last August held a presidential election marred by intimidation against other candidates, the blocking of independent election observers and security crackdowns against protesters.

Lukashenko, who has ruled the country for 26 years, is often described as “Europe’s last dictator.”

Biden met last month with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a Belarusian opposition leader. The president and other world leaders imposed sanctions in late May after Belarus forced a Ryan Air flight carrying another dissident, Rama Pratasevich, to land within its borders so authorities could detain him.