File Photo: US President Joe Biden (AP Photo)
President Joe Biden on Monday said the United States is levying new sanctions against Belarus, marking the one-year anniversary of Alexander Lukashenko's election, which the US and international community have said was fraught with irregularities.
In announcing the sanctions, the White House also noted the forced landing of a European airliner traveling through the country's airspace in order to arrest a prominent opposition journalist aboard.
Among those the Treasury Department cite in the new sanctions are Belaruskali OAO, which is one of Belarus's largest state-owned enterprises and a source of wealth for the regime; the Belarusian National Olympic Committee; and 15 private companies, including the prominent Belarusian bank Absolutbank, that have ties with the Lukashenko regime.
The Belarus Olympic committee has been accused of facilitating money laundering, sanctions evasion and the circumvention of visa bans. The International Olympic Committee has also reprimanded it for its failure to protect Belarusian athletes from political discrimination and repression.
``It is the responsibility of all those who care about human rights, free and fair elections and freedom of expression to stand against this oppression,'' Biden said in a statement.
``The United States will continue to stand up for human rights and free expression, while holding the Lukashenka accountable, in concert with our allies and partners.''
Lukashenko was awarded a sixth term in last year's vote that the opposition and many in the West view as fraudulent.
A belief that the vote was stolen triggered mass protests in Belarus that led to increased repressions by Lukashenko's regime on protesters, dissidents and independent media. Over 35,000 people were arrested and thousands were beaten and jailed.
Lukashenko has earned the nickname of ``Europe's last dictator'' in the West for his relentless repression of dissent since taking the helm in 1994.
Last week, Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, an Olympic sprinter who feared reprisals at home for criticizing her coaches, fled from the Tokyo Olympics to Poland.
The Biden administration has called on the Lukashenko regime to permit an independent international investigation into the Ryanair flight diversion, release all political prisoners; and begin talks with democratic opposition and civil society figures that results in a free and fair presidential election under observation by Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.