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The U.S. and international allies on Thursday imposed additional sanctions on Belarus, increasing pressure on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for human rights abuses and orchestrating a migrant crisis on its borders with other European countries. 

“Today’s actions demonstrate our unwavering determination to act in the face of a brutal regime that increasingly represses Belarusians, undermines the peace and security of Europe, and continues to abuse people seeking only to live in freedom,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

“These sanctions are also in response to the Lukashenka regime’s callous exploitation of vulnerable migrants from other countries in order to orchestrate migrant smuggling along its border with EU states.”

The sanctions blacklist entities and individuals that “support the regime and facilitate its repression,” Blinken said. They include targeting three aircraft as blocked property and designating 32 individuals and entities, including Belarusian state-owned enterprises and government officials. 

They were imposed in coordination with the United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union, who issued a joint statement with the U.S. affirming commitment to “supporting the democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus and stand together to impose costs on the regime  and those who support it  for its efforts to silence the voices of independent civil society, media, and all Belarusians seeking to speak the truth about what is happening in their country.” 

The sanctions represent the third time the U.S. has coordinated with its European partners on efforts to punish the Lukashenka government since it claimed power in Belarus’s 2020 elections, which were criticized as neither free nor fair, and instituted a brutal crackdown on the political opposition and protesters.

This includes the forced rerouting and landing of an international flight to arrest a dissident journalist, on top of a campaign of arbitrary detention, beating and torture of Belarusian citizens opposing the government. 

Most recently, the U.S., Europe and human rights groups have condemned Lukashenko for manufacturing a humanitarian crisis by luring desperate migrants from the Middle East to Minsk and shuttling them to the borders with Poland and Lithuania in a bid to destabilize Europe and in retaliation for earlier sanctions.

Minsk denies this. 

Blinken, in his statement, called on Belarus to take clear measures of a “sincere dialogue” with the political opposition; end its crackdown on members of civil society, independent media, and others; release all political prisoners — an estimated 900 people — to stop its coercion of vulnerable people; and to hold free and fair elections under international observation. 

“We will continue working with the international community to promote accountability for those responsible for repression and human rights violations and abuses in Belarus,” the secretary said.

Tags Antony Blinken Belarus

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