Belarus condemns “destructive” new Western sanctions

Belarus on Tuesday denounced coordinated sanctions against the ex-Soviet country of the EU, USA, Great Britain and Canada, which were imposed after the emergency landing of a Ryanair flight to arrest a critic of the regime.

The sanctions follow global outrage over the emergency landing of a passenger plane in Minsk, where authorities arrested opposition activist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend, who were on board.

They were the latest in a string of sentences against President Alexander Lukashenko, who ruled Belarus for nearly three decades and cracked down on the opposition following mass protests following controversial presidential elections last year.

“We have repeatedly stated that sanctions negatively affect citizens’ interests, they are counterproductive and malicious,” the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“But targeted, destructive actions against the population are being continued in order to ‘financially drain’ the regime, so to speak.”

The ministry described the sanctions as “hostile actions” and said Western countries were “putting pressure on a sovereign state”.

“Against this background, the statement by the leadership of the European Union looks like a mockery, a mockery of logic and common sense,” said the ministry.

Belarus “is able and will do whatever it takes to protect its citizens and businesses” and the restrictions “are not having the desired effect”.

The European Union and the United States both targeted dozens of individuals and organizations for brutal crackdown on the opposition after Lukashenko called for landslide re-election for a sixth term last August.

Brussels and London have put seven officials – including Belarusian Defense and Transport Ministers – on their black sanction lists for grounding the Ryanair jet.

The EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg also supported far-reaching sanctions aimed at important sources of income for the Belarusian regime: potash fertilizer exports, the tobacco industry, petroleum and petrochemical products.

Lukashenko and his allies have already faced a series of sanctions from Brussels and Washington over the violent handling of protests that took tens of thousands of people to the streets for months.

Thousands were arrested and several people died while key opposition figures either fled the country or ended up in prison.

Lukashenko’s main opponent in the vote was Svetlana Tichanovskaya, a political novice who took her husband’s place from prison in the poll and quickly gained popularity.

A few days after the protests began, she was forced into exile in neighboring EU member Lithuania.

The opposition believes Tichanovskaya was the real winner of the election, and it has the support of several Western leaders.

However, Lukashenko has so far dismissed Western pressure with the support of a key ally and believer Russia.

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