Democratic partners condemn crackdown in Belarus

The United States and its international partners are holding the regime of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka accountable for its ongoing repression of the people of Belarus.

The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union on June 21 imposed coordinated sanctions against numerous Belarusian officials and entities for cracking down on calls for democracy and for violating human rights. The sanctions also respond to the regime’s recent forced landing of a civilian airliner and arrest of a journalist on board.

“We are united in our deep concern regarding the Lukashenka regime’s continuing attacks on human rights, fundamental freedoms, and international law,” the partners say. “We are committed to support the long-suppressed democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus.”

On May 23, Belarusian government officials forced a Ryanair flight to land in Minsk and arrested two passengers: journalist Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega. A U.S. official called the forced landing “egregious air piracy.” It is the latest abuse in an ongoing crackdown on democracy advocates since a fraudulent August 9, 2020, election. The crackdown includes the arrest and prosecution of peaceful protesters and journalists, among others.

Woman wrapped in flag sitting on man's shoulders in huge crowd during protest (© AP Images)
A woman draped in an opposition flag protests after Belarus’ fraudulent August 2020 election. (© AP Images)

Canada, the EU, the UK and the U.S. each imposed sanctions against individuals and entities for harming democratic institutions and repressing the people of Belarus.

The U.S. Department of State issued visa restrictions against 46 Belarusian officials, including Lukashenka administration officials and members of Belarus’ State Security Committee and Ministry of Information. The restrictions generally bar entry into the United States.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated 16 Belarusian government officials and five entities for supporting the post-election crackdown on protests of Lukashenka’s policies abroad. The Treasury designations preclude financial dealings with the United States.

In their joint statement, the international partners also urge the government of Belarus to:

  • Cooperate with international investigations into the forced landing of the civilian airliner.
  • Immediately release all political prisoners.
  • Enter into talks with representatives of the democratic opposition and civil society.
  • Implement recommendations of the independent expert mission (PDF, 6.6 MB) under the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Moscow Mechanism, which issued an October 2020 report finding “massive and systematic” human rights abuses in Belarus.

“We are united in calling for the regime to end its repressive practices against its own people,” the coalition said in the joint statement.

The United States has sanctioned more than 150 Belarusian nationals and Russian supporters of the Lukashenka regime since the fraudulent election in August 2020, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a June 21 statement.

“The United States continues to support international efforts to investigate electoral irregularities in the 2020 Belarusian Presidential election and the violent crackdown and abuses that ensued,” Blinken said. “We stand with the people of Belarus in support of their fundamental freedoms.”