US and its allies impose new sanctions on Belarus because of the migrant crisis and ongoing human rights abuses

The United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Canada have taken concerted action against several Belarusian entities and individuals in their latest attempt to put pressure on longtime Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, who accused of using “innocent migrants as political weapons” “In the words of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and whose government has waged a campaign of repression against activists and dissidents politicians and journalists.

“We remain committed to supporting the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people and standing together to impose costs on the regime – and its supporters – for its efforts to silence voices. of independent civil society, the media and all Belarusians looking to tell the truth about what is happening in their country,” the four countries said in a joint statement.

The sanctions also come at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow – the strongest supporter of the Lukashenko regime – and much of the West as Russian President Vladimir Putin has massed troops on the border with Ukraine.

In a joint statement, the US, Canada, UK and EU demanded Lukashenko “immediately and completely stop the staging of irregular migration across its borders with the EU.”

“Those in Belarus or in third countries who facilitate illegal border crossings beyond the EU’s external borders should know that this comes at a significant price,” the countries said.

Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei, speaking at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Stockholm on Thursday, speak that Belarus was “punished” by sanctions “just because we revealed the ‘dark side’ of European democracy.”
“Please remember one simple fact: those who really ask to strangle their people through destructive sanctions will never be accepted by this people and will not be required in the country. hey,” said Makei, according to a tweet from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

‘Significant’ sanctions

The US Treasury Department on Thursday announced it was “designating 20 individuals and 12 entities and identifying three aircraft as frozen assets”, further punishing Belarus’ potassium industry and imposing restrictions on for the sovereign debt of Belarus.

“Since June 2021, partners and allies, including the EU, UK, Canada and Switzerland, have targeted new issuances of Belarus’ sovereign debt on the primary market and secondary in an attempt to hold the Lukashenka regime accountable for its ongoing wicked behavior”. The Finance Ministry said in a press release, using an alternative spelling of the Belarusian leader’s name.

“The addition of US restrictions on new issuances of Belarusian sovereign debt on the primary and secondary markets demonstrates close coordination with partners and allies to limit the Lukashenka regime’s access to international capital markets”.

Among those sanctioned were Belarus’s state-owned travel agency, a state-owned freight carrier, five defense-related entities and several individuals with close ties to the country. Lukashenko, including his middle son.

Blinken and Lavrov meet amid tension over Russia's intentions in Ukraine

“I think it’s actually quite important,” said Julia Friedlander, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and former senior policy adviser on Europe at the Treasury Department.

Friedlander told CNN that restrictions on debt issuance are a particularly big problem, noting that “it shows that the administration is saying that now is the time to use all of the leverage of we.”

“I highly doubt that sanctions pressure will cause (Lukashenko) to change course,” Friedlander said. “This is about limiting his ability to function financially and his inner circle.”

It could undermine his ability to keep the economy steady, possibly leading to further domestic unrest, she added.

Kenneth Yalowitz, a former US Ambassador to Belarus and a member of the Wilson Center, also expressed doubt that the new sanctions would cause Lukashenko to change behaviour, but said they made financial sense. .

“They’re probably going to have a hard time getting loans and issuing bonds,” he told CNN. “It also makes sense to me, maybe as a signal to the Russian side, you know, the kind of financial sanctions that we might get if they get into Ukraine.”

Blinken has repeatedly warned over the past several days that Moscow will “adopt high-impact economic measures that we’ve limited in the past” if it invades Ukraine.

Yalowitz told CNN that “Belarus will be more expensive for the Russians to maintain,” but both he and Friedlander say it’s unlikely Putin will stop backing Lukashenko over the new batch of sanctions.

“Belarus, for Putin, is just another part of the military equation he is working on against Ukraine. So he won’t give up Lukashenka now,” he said.


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