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Biden Hits Belarus With New Sanctions One Year After Lukashenko’s Disputed Election

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at August 9, 2021

Topline

President Joe Biden unveiled the strongest sanctions to date on Belarus to mark the first anniversary of the controversial re-election of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, which U.S. officials said was fraudulent.

Key Facts

In a new executive order Monday, the White House announced sanctions against state-owned Belaruskali OAO, one of the world’s largest potash fertilizer producers, accusing the company of being “a source of illicit wealth for the regime.”

The Biden Administration also came down on Belarus’ Olympic Committee, which has faced international scrutiny after being accused by sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of attempting to force her to leave the Games against her will and return to Belarus, where she said she would face retaliation for speaking out against her coaches on social media.

The Belarusian National Olympic Committee, which saw two of its officials stripped of Olympic accreditation and ejected from the Tokyo games over Tsimanouskaya’s allegations, had also been accused of aiding money laundering, dodging sanctions and bypassing visa bans, the White House said.

Biden also slapped sanctions on 15 Belarusian companies and individuals affiliated with them, along with entities involved in the country’s transportation, construction, energy and tobacco industries. 

Canada and the U.K. also announced new sanctions against Belarus in what the White House said was a coordinated effort to put pressure on Lukashenko, following sanctions announced by the European Union in June.

Key Background

Lukashenko, who has been dubbed by the media as “Europe’s Last Dictator” and who is a noted ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin,  has kept a tight grip on the country’s presidency since the office was created in 1994 after the fall of the Soviet Union. His most recent election in 2020, widely thought by the opposition and countries in the West to have been rigged in Lukashenko’s favor, spurred the largest protests against the government in the country’s history. International scrutiny of Lukashenko and Belarus intensified in May, when outspoken Belarusian journalist and dissident Roman Protasevich was seized by authorities in Minsk after his flight was forced to land by a military fighter jet. Protasevich had been accused of terrorism and riot provocation after covering the nationwide protests against Lukashenko’s election, and had lived in exile in Vilnius, Lithuania, since 2019. Belarusian officials said the commercial RyanAir flight running from Athens to Vilnius had been the target of a bomb threat, though evidence for the claim never materialized. The incident was slammed by world leaders as “an unprecedented act of state terrorism,” and Biden called Belarus’ action “shameful assaults on both political dissent and the freedom of the press.” Protasevich remains in custody. Belarusian authorities said in June Protasevich was still in custody in Belarus under house arrest.

Further Reading

Belarusian Sprinter Tsimanouskaya Finally Lands In Poland After Asylum Plea At Olympics (Forbes)

Biden Slams Belarus For Detaining Journalist Seized From Flight (Forbes)

Belarus Protests In Largest Numbers Yet: There Is No More Fear (Forbes)

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