Biden issues decree targeting Belarusian regime

The decree was issued on the first anniversary of the elections in Belarus, which were declared fraudulent by the United States and much of the international community and sparked widespread protests across the country.

“A year ago today, the Belarusian people sought to make their voices heard and to shape their own future through this most basic expression of democracy – an election,” Biden said in a statement Monday. “Rather than respecting the clear will of the Belarusian people, the Lukashenka regime carried out electoral fraud, followed by a brutal crackdown to quell dissent.”

“The United States will continue to defend human rights and freedom of expression, while holding Lukashenka accountable, along with our allies and partners. To this end, today we are issuing a new executive decree that strengthens our ability to impose costs against the regime and announces new sanctions against Belarusian individuals and entities for their role in attacks on democracy and human rights. human rights, transnational repression and corruption, ”he said.

“As I told the Belarusian opposition leader, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, we stand alongside the Belarusian people as they courageously pursue their democratic aspirations,” said the president.

Tsikhanouskaya, who met Biden last month, said on Monday that she appreciated the US decision to “extend sanctions against the Lukashenka regime.”

“Although the sanctions are not a quick fix, they are designed to push the regime towards dialogue and end its impunity. Thank you to the United States for the principled position and the support of the Belarusians,” he said. she writes on Twitter.

“An illegitimate effort to cling to power at all costs”

Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, nicknamed “Europe’s last dictator”, has been shunned by much of the international community and has been under US sanctions since 2006. His regime has severely cracked down on protesters and journalists – the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) noted last November that “regarding allegations related to major human rights violations, they have been deemed massive and systematic and proven beyond any doubt”.

“From the detention of thousands of peaceful protesters to the imprisonment of more than 500 activists, civil society leaders and journalists as political prisoners, to the forcible hijacking of an international flight violating global standards, the actions of the regime of Lukashenka are an illegitimate effort to retain power at all costs, “Biden said Monday.

“It is the responsibility of all those who care about human rights, free and fair elections and freedom of expression to oppose this oppression,” he said.

Monday’s decree expands the one published in 2006 to include “illicit and oppressive activities stemming from the fraudulent Belarusian presidential election of August 9, 2020 and its consequences, such as the elimination of political opposition and society organizations civil and regime disruption and endangerment of international civilian air travel.

It allows “the imposition of blocking sanctions on persons operating in certain identified sectors of the Belarusian economy, including the defense and related materiel sector, the security sector, the energy sector, the potassium chloride (potash), tobacco products industry, construction industry, transportation according to a White House fact sheet.

The US Treasury Department on Monday sanctioned 27 people and 17 entities – its largest tranche of sanctions against Belarus to date, according to the White House fact sheet.

“Those named today are involved in the violent and continuing crackdown on peaceful protests; are linked to the Ryanair incident of May 23, 2021; or benefit or support the Belarusian regime at the expense of the Belarusian people,” the department said. of the Treasury. in a press release.

Monday’s sanctions hit two major Belarusian state-owned companies: Belaruskali potash producer OAO and Grodno Tobacco Factory Neman.

The sanctions also targeted the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus – “a government organization at the forefront of post-election repression” – and members of its leadership team; “Individuals and entities that function as the ‘portfolios’ of the Lukashenka regime,” as well as the Belarusian National Olympic Committee, which “allegedly” serves as a tool for Lukashenka and his entourage to launder funds and evade sanctions ” , according to the Treasury Department. .

During his meetings in Washington in July, Tsikhanouskaya said he gave the Biden administration a specific list of targets it would like to see sanctioned, including Belaruskali.

“Unwavering international determination”

In a briefing with reporters during last month’s visit to Washington, Tsikhanouskaya called on the administration to adopt tougher sanctions, saying at the time that she believed the initial installments were more symbolic and ” moral sanctions “.

The Biden administration announced sanctions in June as part of a coordinated response with the UK, Canada and the European Union to the forced landing of the Ryanair flight by the Lukashenko government, as well as the ” continued repression ”in the former Soviet state.

The UK and Canada also announced additional sanctions on Monday, which were welcomed by the opposition as well as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“Democratic countries are stronger when they stand together. Along with these American actions, we welcome the measures taken today by the United Kingdom and Canada against the regime and those announced by the European Union on June 24. with Lithuania and Poland as a demonstration of the unwavering international determination to support the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people, ”Blinken said in a statement.

“We will continue to work with the international community to hold those responsible for human rights violations and abuses in Belarus to account,” he said.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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