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US hits Belarusian officials with travel bans for crackdown

US secretary of state declares sanctions on 43 Belarusian nationals hours after two journalists are sentenced.

The United States on Thursday imposed travel restrictions on 43 Belarusian nationals recognized as collaborating in President Alexander Lukashenko’s “crackdown” on protesters and journalists.

The US motion was introduced by Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a press release that adopted the sentencing Thursday of two journalists who had livestreamed an unlimited protest in Minsk in November.

Katsiaryna Bakhvalava, age 27, and Daria Chultsova, 23, each of the Polish-funded Belsat TV channel have been sentenced to 2 years in jail overlaying the protest.

The State Department additionally famous raids by Belarusian authorities on February 16 on Vyasna, an affiliation of journalists, and on impartial commerce union staff.

Blinken’s assertion mentioned the US “remains alarmed by the Lukashenka regime’s continuing violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, pro-democracy activists, and journalists”.

The sanctions limiting travel to the US apply to “high-ranking justice sector officials, law enforcement leaders and rank-and-file personnel who detained and abused peaceful demonstrators”, Blinken’s assertion mentioned.

In addition, judges and prosecutors concerned in sentencing protesters and journalists, in addition to educational directors who threatened college students for participation in protests have been additionally sanctioned.

More than 33,000 individuals have been detained in a violent crackdown on protests towards Lukashenko’s rule following a contested election final August that his opponents have mentioned was rigged to increase his rule, in response to the Reuters news service.

The crackdown has prompted Western international locations to impose new sanctions on Minsk. Lukashenko has refused to step down, buttressed by assist from Moscow, which sees Belarus as a buffer state towards the European Union and NATO.

Previously, Washington had expanded sanctions on Belarus, focusing on 4 entities and 40 people for their roles within the disputed presidential election and the federal government’s subsequent arrests of protesters.

The two journalists – Bakhvalava, who additionally goes by the final title of Andreyeva, and Chultsova – have been arrested in November after police broke down the door of a Minsk house the place they have been broadcasting a livestream of an illustration within the Belarusian capital.

Journalists Katsiaryna Andreyeva, proper, and Daria Chultsova stand inside a defendants’ cage in a courtroom in Minsk, Belarus, because the courtroom sentenced the 2 feminine journalists to 2 years in jail for overlaying a protest towards the nation’s authoritarian president [AP Photo]

Addressing the courtroom earlier than the decision, Bakhvalava promised to proceed working for “building a Belarus that won’t have political repressions”, in response to The Associated Press.

“I’m not pleading. I’m demanding acquittal for me and my colleagues,” she mentioned, referring to different jailed journalists.

The two have been charged with “organising actions rudely violating public order” – accusations they denied.

Meanwhile, a trial started Wednesday in Belarus for a financial institution government who had aspired to problem Lukashenko in final 12 months’s election however was blocked from working on account of felony prices.

Viktor Babariko, 57, the previous head of Russia-owned Belgazprombank, has been jailed since June on corruption and cash laundering prices. He has dismissed the accusations, saying they have been supposed to forestall him from difficult Lukashenko.

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Updated on March 5, 2021 11:05 am

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