A joint statement from the US, Canada, UK and EU on Monday announced the imposition of new, “coordinated sanctions” against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime and its “continuing attacks on human rights, fundamental freedoms, and international law.”
The new and comprehensive sanctions on Belarusian individuals and entities follow last month’s forced landing of a Ryanair passenger jet carrying political dissident Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega. Ryanair flight FR4978, carrying Protasevich and Sapega, was forced to divert to Minsk shortly before it crossed into Lithuanian airspace en route to Vilnius from Greece.
The US State Department announced that it “took action pursuant to Presidential Proclamation (PP) 8015 to impose visa restrictions on 46 Belarusian officials for their involvement in undermining or injuring institutions in Belarus.” The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) also announced its designation of “16 individuals and five entities pursuant to Executive Order 13405 in response to the [Lukashenko] regime’s escalating violence and repression.”
EU leaders likewise voted to impose sanctions on critical portions of the Belarusian economy, including its banking, oil, tobacco and potash industries. Unlike sanctions imposed on individuals, such extensive economic sanctions “[represent] an effort to broaden the punishment by penalizing organizations … responsible for repression.” The EU will also impose sanctions on Belarus’ financial sector.
In the joint statement, the governments announced:
We are committed to support the long-suppressed democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus and we stand together to impose costs on the regime for its blatant disregard of international commitments. We are united in calling for the [Lukashenko] regime to end its repressive practices against its own people. We are disappointed the regime has opted to walk away from its human rights obligations, adherence to democratic principles, and engagement with the international community. We are further united in our call for the Lukashenko regime to cooperate fully with international investigations into the events of 23 May; immediately release all political prisoners; implement all the recommendations of the independent expert mission under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Moscow Mechanism; and, enter into a comprehensive and genuine political dialogue between the authorities and representatives of the democratic opposition and civil society, facilitated by the OSCE.