President Joe Biden is turning up the heat in Eastern Europe with new sanctions against Belarus.
In a statement on the latest measures, Biden accused Alexander Lukashenko of stealing an election and pursuing a “brutal campaign of repression to stifle dissent.”
“Power at any price”
The Belarusian leader first came to power in 1994 and is widely seen among Western nations as a dictator. His election last year was condemned by a number of world leaders — including Biden — as fraudulent.
Marking the one-year anniversary of what he described as a rigged election, Biden announced an array of sanctions targeting Lukashenko’s support base.
Biden specifically denounced “election fraud” in addressing Lukashenko’s treatment of protesters and the forced landing of a Belarusian plane to arrest a dissident journalist.
“Rather than respect the clear will of the Belarusian people, the Lukashenko regime perpetrated election fraud, followed by a brutal campaign of repression to stifle dissent,” the U.S. president said.
His statement went on to list a series of troubling actions, from “detaining thousands of peaceful protesters, to imprisoning more than 500 activists, civil society leaders, and journalists as political prisoners, to forcing the diversion of an international flight in an affront to global norms, the actions of the Lukashenko regime are an illegitimate effort to hold on to power at any price.”
“Choke on these sanctions”
Biden defended the action, asserting that the U.S. “will continue to stand up for human rights and free expression while holding the Lukashenko [regime] accountable in concert with our allies and partners.”
Although Lukashenko has faced sanctions in the past, he has remained in power largely due to support from Russia. The new sanctions reflect the determination of Biden and other Western leaders to see him removed.
In response to the development, Lukashenko proclaimed: “You in Britain can choke on these sanctions.”
While Biden’s tough talk likely resonated across the country and around the world, some of his critics might find it ironic coming from an administration that clamps down on political protest and so-called misinformation.