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US extends previous sanctions on Belarusian officials for another year

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows American flag over the US Embassy in Minsk, Belarus.

The United States has extended its punitive sanctions against Belarusian officials for another year, claiming that the European country allegedly poses “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to the US.

According to a White House notice, President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed an executive order to extend the US sanctions against Belarusian officials for another year, Russia’s TASS news agency reported on Wednesday.

“The actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Belarus and other persons continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” the document said.

It further claimed that the said officials “undermine Belarus’s democratic processes or institutions.”

Washington first introduced the sanctions back in 2006. The punitive measures have to be regularly prolonged, suspended, or canceled. The current term of sanctions will end on June 16.  

“For this reason, the national emergency declared on June 16, 2006, must continue in effect beyond June 16, 2021,” Biden said in the notice, which will be transmitted to Congress.

The US administration also said in April that it would impose sanctions on nine state-owned companies in Belarus over Minsk’s alleged human rights violations and abuses. The sanctions came into effect early this month.

Minsk has repeatedly rejected the US allegations and lambasted them as illegal, saying they contradict international law and are aimed at putting pressure on a sovereign state.

Washington has also threatened Belarus with more sanctions after Minsk forced a Lithuania-bound airliner to land following a terror alert. A dissident journalist onboard was arrested.

The European Union banned Belarusian airlines last week from using the airspace of the 27-nation bloc and called on air carriers based in the EU to avoid flying over the country.

On May 23, a Ryanair passenger plane heading from Greece to Lithuania was forced to make an emergency landing at Minsk International Airport, following a reported bomb scare that proved to be a false threat later.

Belarusian law enforcement forces detained Protasevich, the co-founder of a Telegram channel that is viewed as extremist by the Belarus government, as well as a female companion identified as Sofia Sapega.

'New sanctions coming' 

Separately on Wednesday, the US envoy to Minsk, Julie Fisher, said Washington was working with partners like Canada, the EU, and the UK “on new rounds of sanctions to promote accountability” for what she described as human rights abuses purportedly committed by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his government.

Fisher, who has been denied a visa to take up her post in Minsk, further told legislators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “as announced by the White House on May 28, additional sanctions are coming and they are coming soon.”

Last week, the Belarusian foreign ministry announced plans for the reduction of US diplomatic staff in the country and tightening visa procedures for the Americans after Washington imposed sanctions against a number of companies in Belarus.


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