US, EU, Canada և UK slap sanctions on Belarus | Human Rights News:

The United States, the European Union, Canada, and the United Kingdom have all imposed sanctions on Belarusian officials, calling on Minsk to “stop its repressive attempts against its own people.”

The allies said they were cooperating with the administration of President Alexander Lukashenko in investigating the May Ryanair landing, the arrest of journalist Roman Protasic, and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega.

“We are deeply concerned about the ongoing attacks by the Lukashenko regime on human rights, fundamental freedoms and international law,” a joint statement issued on Wednesday said.

“We are committed to supporting the long-standing, repressed democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus, and we stand together to impose costs on the regime for openly disregarding its international obligations,” they said.

The concerted action reflected growing Western frustration with Belarus, which plunged into a crisis last year when street protests erupted, protesters said, in a rigged presidential election.

There was no immediate response from Lukashenko, who has so far suppressed the storm, denied rigging the vote, accusing journalist Roman Protasich of plotting a revolution.

The veteran leader is increasingly appealing to Russia for support.

The four called on Minsk to cooperate with the international investigation into the plane crash, to release all political prisoners immediately, and to “start a comprehensive, real political dialogue” with the democratic opposition and civil society.

“Tighten the blunt screws”

The European Union (EU) has announced a travel ban on assets of 78 officials, including Belarus’ defense minister, transport minister, air force commander, judges, lawmakers, and entities, usually companies, banks or associations. This means that a total of 166 people և 15 organizations are currently under EU restrictive measures.

At a meeting in Luxembourg, the bloc said it was preparing economic sanctions, which Austria said would “tighten its fingers” on the Belarussian government.

“This decision was taken in light of the escalation of serious human rights abuses in Belarus, including the crackdown on civil society, the democratic opposition, and journalists,” the statement said.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who chaired the meeting, said the economic sanctions would “cause great damage to Belarus’ economy”.

EU countries are set to impose economic sanctions on Belarus’ financial, oil, tobacco and potash sectors shortly after an agreement was reached on Friday.

Last year, the EU imported 1.2 billion euros ($ 1.5 billion) worth of chemicals from Belarus, including potash, as well as more than 1 billion euros ($ 1.2 billion) worth of crude oil and related products, including are fuels and lubricants? Belarus also relies on European commercial and development banks.

The alliance will ban Belarus from exporting any communications equipment that could be used for espionage, and tighten arms embargoes, including those used by biathletes.

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Ikhanuskaya welcomed the announcement. “The European Union has decided that they deserve the sanctions,” Ik Ikhanuskaya told reporters in Brussels. “I agree … We must end the situation in our country, we do not want it to become North Korea.”

At the same time, the US Treasury Department said in a statement that it included in the list of 16 people և five entities “the escalating violence and repression” of the Lukashenko government, including the forced landing of the flight.

The US actions targeted Lukashenko’s close associates, said the treasury, including his spokesman, the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Upper House of the Belarusian Parliament.

“Cutting oil export revenue streams”

The United Kingdom has announced that travel bans have led to the freezing of assets of “high-ranking officials” such as BNK (UK) Ltd. to an oil company.

“The sanctions send a strong signal to the Belarussian authorities that the United Kingdom will not tolerate human rights abuses in the United Kingdom or the use of our financial institutions,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Britain has said its sanctions were imposed on a separate EU, which it lifted last year, but in parallel with sanctions imposed by Washington, Ottawa and Brussels.

The British Foreign Office said the restrictions on BNK (UK) Ltd, a Belarusian oil exporter, would “significantly affect one of the regime’s main revenue streams”.

Foreign Minister Dominique Raab said. “Lukashenko’s regime endangered the lives of airline passengers and crew with a disgraceful ploy to kidnap Roman Protasich.

“We will hold the regime accountable through an agreement with our allies, including further travel bans, asset freezes, and cessation of oil export revenue streams.”

In September last year, Britain announced sanctions on the basis of human rights against Lukashenko, his son, and high-ranking government officials in Belarus.

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