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West Tightens Sanctions On Belarus On Anniversary Of Disputed Vote

By RFE/RL's Belarus Service August 09, 2021

Britain has slapped new trade and financial sanctions on Belarus on the first anniversary of a presidential election that authoritarian Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka's opponents say was rigged so that he could extend his decades-long rule.

A White House official was quoted as saying that the United States will also impose fresh sanctions on Lukashenka's regime later on August 9 over his crackdown on dissent following the disputed vote.

The British measures, announced by the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office on August 9, include a ban on Belarus's potash and petroleum-product exports and a prohibition on the purchase of transferable securities and money-market instruments issued by the Belarusian state and its state-owned banks.

The package also includes measures to prevent Belarusian air carriers from overflying or landing in Britain and a prohibition on the provision of technical assistance to Lukashenka's "fleet of luxury aircraft."

"These sanctions demonstrate that the U.K. will not accept Lukashenka's actions since the fraudulent election," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said. "The Lukashenka regime continues to crush democracy and violate human rights in Belarus."

Britain also added Russian businessman Mikhail Gutseriyev to its sanctions list, saying he was "one of the main private investors in Belarus and a long-standing associate" of Lukashenka.

Meanwhile, the White House official said U.S. President Joe Biden would sign an executive order targeting Lukashenka over an ongoing "assault against the democratic aspirations and human rights of the Belarusian people, transnational repression...and corruption," according to AFP.

The sanctions will hit entities and individuals seen as Lukashenka supporters, including the Belarusian National Olympic Committee, business leaders, and companies such as Belaruskali, the country's profitable potash producer.

The Belarusian opposition says the August 9, 2020, vote was rigged and opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has been in exile in Lithuania since Lukashenka launched a subsequent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, was the true winner.

The European Union, the United States, and other countries have refused to recognize Lukashenka as Belarus's legitimate leader and have slapped multiple rounds of sanctions to pressure his regime to ease its crackdown, talk with the opposition, and ensure a new election.

Speaking during a meeting with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis in Vilnius, Tsikhanouskaya said that only a common, coordinated position of all countries on sanctions and further pressure on Lukashenka will help Belarus overcome the crisis.

Separately, Tsikhanouskaya told the media that the Belarusian opposition was "advocating for organizing an international tribunal on the regime's crimes" and was "working on holding a high-level international conference to resolve the crisis in Belarus."

At a press conference, Lukashenka struck a note of defiance, defending last year's election and accusing the opposition of preparing a "coup."

He also denied that his country had any involvement in the recent death of an activist in Ukraine or in trying to forcibly bring home an athlete from the Tokyo Olympics.

Belarusians living abroad and supporters held rallies against Lukashenka on August 8 in European capitals, including Kyiv, London, Warsaw, and Vilnius. More protests were planned for August 9.

"One year ago today, the right to freely elect their leader was taken away from the people of #Belarus. The EU stands firmly with you and will continue to do so," European Council President Charles Michel, who chairs EU summits, said in a tweet.

The EU "stands firmly with you and will continue to do so. The legitimate call for a democratic future and respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights must finally be heeded."

The previous day, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that the bloc "stands ready to consider further measures in light of the regime's blatant disregard of international commitments."

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas vowed to support Belarus's democracy movement, saying the whole country was being held "hostage" by Lukashenka.

"Alongside political support, we have launched practical assistance with our Belarus civil society action plan to support people who are being politically persecuted," Maas said.

In a statement on August 9, Amnesty International denounced Lukashenka's "campaign of brutal reprisals against dissent," saying a "plethora" of human rights violations and crimes under international law had been committed against the Belarusian people.

The London-based watchdog said dozens of human rights NGOs and other civil society organizations have been arbitrarily closed and many of their staff arrested as suspects in "fabricated" criminal cases or forced into exile.

"At least three peaceful protesters have died as a result of police use of force, while tens of thousands were subjected to arbitrary arrests and detention. Hundreds more have complained of torture," Amnesty said.

Lukashenka has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since 1994. He has earned the nickname "Europe's last dictator" in the West for his relentless repression of dissent.

On August 9, Lukashenka dismissed "those nasty things that you throw into my face, saying that I'm a dictator."

He said his government had nothing to do with the death of opposition activist Vital Shyshou, who was found hanged in a park in Kyiv after he was reported missing last week.

Ukrainian police have launched a murder investigation into the death of the 26-year-old, who led a Kyiv-based organization helping persecuted Belarusians.

Lukashenka also claimed that Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, a Belarusian sprinter who defected at the Olympics, had been "manipulated" by outside forces.

Tsimanouskaya fled to Warsaw on August 4 under Polish diplomatic protection following a dispute with her coaching team that she said had led to her being ordered home.

The International Olympic Committee has revoked the accreditation of two Belarusian coaches over Tsimanouskaya's alleged treatment, which Japan's Foreign Ministry called "unjust" and "not acceptable."

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/belarus- lukashenka-tsikhanouskaya/31399803.html

Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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