A year after a presidential election was deemed rigged in Belarus, dictator Alexander Lukashenko said on Monday (9) that he was legitimately elected and attacked “the West” for trying to overthrow him.
On the same day, the United States, United Kingdom and Canada joined the European Union and extended sanctions to the eastern European country, calling for the release of political prisoners and the holding of free and fair.
In the morning, opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya called on countries to “jointly tighten” sanctions against the Lukashenko regime.
“Sanctions are not a quick fix, but they will help stop the crackdown. They don’t understand another language, ”she said at a press conference in Vilnius, where she is in exile.
Tikhanovskaya made the same request when received by US President Joe Biden at the end of July.
According to the US government, the new measures are the result of “the continued attack on democratic aspirations and the rights of the Belarusian people” and “violations of international rules”.
In recent months, Lukashenko has intercepted a commercial flight between Greece and Lithuania to arrest blogger Roman Protassevich, who was on board.
He also threatened to “flood the European Union with immigrants”, just before the number of Asians crossing Belarusian borders into Lithuania, Latvia and Poland began to increase exponentially.
In the most recent episode, the Belarusian dictatorship made the news when it tried to force one of its Olympic athletes, sprinter Kristsina Tsimanouskaia, to complain about her federation on social media.
Fearing that she would be arrested, the athlete sought asylum in Poland, an attitude which Lukashenko said indicates she has been “manipulated” by rival countries.
“She wouldn’t do this on her own. It was from Tokyo that she contacted her friends in Poland and they said to her “when you arrive at the airport, run to a policeman and shout that you are being coerced by the KGB [agência de inteligência da Belarus]’”Said the dictator.
The sanctions announced by the US government are of two types. In one, travel bans and resource freezes were imposed on around 40 companies and individuals. These sanctions take effect immediately.
The United States, as the EU had already done, has also enacted sectoral sanctions — which ban doing business in key sectors of Belarusian economy — but these measures take at least six months to enter. in force.
According to analysts, when implemented, they automatically include in the sanctions list any company that cooperates with state-owned banks, state-owned enterprises or state-owned institutions in Belarus, which target banks and Russian companies.
The idea is to lobby for the drying up of Russian funding for the machinery of the Belarusian dictatorship.
The UK has also lifted sanctions in sectors relevant to Belarus, such as oil refineries, fertilizer factories and aviation. The new UK measures extend to trade, finance and technology transfer.
The purchase of bonds, investments and loans to Belarusian state-owned companies and banks were prohibited.
“Britain does not accept Lukashenko’s actions after the fraudulent elections. The products of its state-owned companies will not be sold in the UK, ”British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said of the sanctions.
In the aviation sector, in addition to the ban on flying in British airspace, the country will not allow the maintenance of planes belonging to companies associated with Lukashenko and businessmen close to him.
Similar measures were announced by Canada, which criticized “systematic electoral repression, including state violence against protesters, activists and journalists.”
According to the Canadian Chancellery, last year “the injustice of the Belarusian regime against its own people has not ceased”, which justifies the sanctions.
Canada also announced funds of $ 3 million (BRL 15.7 million) to support civil society organizations in Belarus.
Russia, Lukashenko’s main ally, said on Monday he was regularly elected and condemned Western sanctions.
“Outside forces attempted to carry out a ‘color revolution’ in last year’s elections. The objective is obvious: to bring the political forces controlled by the West to power, “to wrest” Belarus from Russia, “said the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Vladimir Putin’s government said that while opposition to Lukashenko called for more economic sanctions against Belarus, “it is receiving unprecedented financial and information support from Western countries.”
“For our part, we strongly condemn any attempt to interfere directly or indirectly in the internal political processes of Belarus,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry.