After meeting Blinken, Belarus opposition leader asks US to impose more sanctions

WION Web Team
Washington, United States Updated: Jul 21, 2021, 05:18 PM(IST)

Exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko Photograph:( Agencies )

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Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana  Tsikhanouskaya met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken seeking stronger action against President Alexander Lukashenko's government

Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said on Tuesday that she asked US officials to impose sanctions on companies in her country.

It comes after Tsikhanouskaya met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken seeking stronger action against President Alexander Lukashenko's government.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has found himself increasingly isolated since flight controllers told the crew of a Ryanair plane to land in Minsk citing an alleged bomb threat. No bomb was found, but 26-year-old journalist Raman Pratasevich was arrested along with his Russian girlfriend.

More sanctions would go beyond existing ones on Lukashenko's political allies and government bodies and "will be a real hit on him, to make him change his behavior and to release political prisoners," Tsikhanouskaya told reporters.

Tsikhanouskaya called for much tougher action by the world's democracies against Lukashenko, who has kept a tight grip on Belarus since 1994 and cracked down on peaceful street protests that began over a disputed presidential election last August.

"I think it's high time for democratic countries to unite and show their teeth," Tsikhanouskaya said.

She met with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who conveyed the US "respect for the courage and determination of the opposition" in Belarus, National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement.

"The United States, together with partners and allies, will continue to hold the Lukashenka regime accountable for its actions, including through the imposition of sanctions," the statement said.

Tsikhanouskaya, 38, was a candidate in the election instead of her husband Sergei Tsikhanouskiy, a video blogger who has been jailed since May 2020 on charges such as violating public order, which he denies. Tsikhanouskaya fled to neighboring Lithuania after Lukashenko's crackdown.

Lukashenko's opponents say the election was rigged so he could retain power. He denies the allegation. Meanwhile, the government has detained thousands of people amid allegations of torture, and shuttered independent media and rights groups.

Tsikhanouskaya called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop supporting Lukashenko.

"The relationship of Russia and Belarus at the moment is so close that the next step is loss of independence," she told reporters. "We understand that Lukashenko has to pay for the support of the Kremlin."

Moscow has offered Lukashenko quick political support over the diversion, cautioning the EU against hasty action until the episode is properly investigated and arguing that Lukashenko’s actions were in line with international protocols in cases of bomb threats.

(With inputs from agencies)

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