The United States, Canada and its European allies on Thursday intensified pressure on the regime of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko by expanding sanctions against officials and companies accused of fueling a politically motivated immigration crisis.
The sanctions target senior security and justice officials, prominent media figures, Lukashenko’s son, defense-related companies and a major exporter of fertilizers.
The US Treasury has also restricted the circulation of part of the Belarusian sovereign debt by US entities.
A joint statement issued by the United States, Britain, Canada and the European Union stressed the announcement of sanctions in response to the “continued attacks on human rights and fundamental freedoms in Belarus, disregard for international standards and repeated acts of repression.”
The text calls on Lukashenko’s government to “immediately and completely stop regulating irregular migration across its borders with the European Union.”
“We demand the regime to release nearly 900 political prisoners unconditionally and to put an end to its crackdown,” he added.
The West accuses the Belarusian government of organizing a wave of immigration, issuing visas, and transferring migrants to the borders of Poland and, to a lesser extent, to Lithuania in response to the sanctions imposed on the regime of Alexander Lukashenko to suppress the demonstrations.
In Minsk, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected these measures.
“The depth of the absurdity” of this decision “begins to defy any logic,” he said in a statement.
The ministry also accused the West of “demonizing” Belarus and confirmed that it would respond with “strict and disproportionate, but appropriate measures.”
On Thursday, the Official Journal of the European Union (DOUE) published a list of 17 Belarusian officials and 11 entities included in its sanctions package.
In a note, the European Council reported that this extension of sanctions “targets prominent members of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court and the State Oversight Committee, as well as the propaganda media.”
The list included Belarusian military officials linked to the border service, two Supreme Court judges, and a foreign ministry spokesman, among others.
The national airline Belavia and Cham Wings Airlines, responsible for transporting migrants to Belarus’s border with Europe, were also included in the sanctions list.
The list also includes two tourism companies and two hotel companies, due to their role in obtaining visas and transiting and receiving immigrants.
As of Thursday, the EU sanctions list already included 166 names, including President Lukashenko and his two sons, as well as 15 entities associated with his government.
On the other hand, Great Britain has named many prominent journalists whom it called “advocates” of Lukashenko’s government, and also blacklisted Belarus, one of the world’s largest producers of potash fertilizers, one of the main sources. country.
“These sanctions continue to target important sources of revenue for the Lukashenko regime and impose severe restrictions on those responsible for some of Belarus’ worst anti-democratic actions,” said Secretary of State Liz Truss.
For its part, Washington expressed that its sanctions refer to “smuggling and harming migrants.”
And he added to his blacklist several defense companies, the Belarusian Potash Company, which deals with exports from Belarus, and Dmitry Lukashenko, the second son of the president, who heads the presidential sports club and whose formation the US Treasury indicated the “corruption scheme”.
“Today’s measures demonstrate our unwavering determination to act in the face of a brutal regime that increasingly oppresses Belarusians, undermines peace and security in Europe, and continues to offend people who only seek to live in freedom,” Anthony Blinken, said in a statement.
This is the fifth round of coordinated sanctions against Belarus, which impose an asset freeze and travel and business restrictions on those affected. The US sanctions are trying to prevent the aforementioned companies and individuals from leaving the global financial system.
pmh-ahg / mb / lm