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Belarus blasts new Western sanctions as 'declaration of economic war'

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)
In this file photo Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during a meeting with officials in Minsk on May 28, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Belarus has strongly denounced new coordinated sanctions by Western countries against the ex-Soviet state, stressing that the bans amount to a declaration of economic war.

"[The EU] continues purposeful destructive actions against the population in order, allegedly, to 'dry up the regime financially.' In fact, this borders on a declaration of economic war," the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

In a coordinated response to the grounding of an intra-EU flight in Minsk last month, the EU on Monday targeted 78 officials and entities, including the Belarusian defense and transport ministers and its air force commander as well as judges and lawmakers, with travel bans and asset freezes.

The United States, Britain, and Canada also imposed sanctions on several senior Belarusian officials and entities.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry described the latest sanctions as "hostile actions" and said the Western countries were using "pressure on a sovereign state."

"Against this backdrop, the statement of the leadership of the European Union looks like an outright mockery, a mockery of logic and common sense," it said.

"We have repeatedly stated that sanctions negatively affect the interests of citizens, they are counterproductive and vicious," the statement read. "But deliberate, destructive actions against the population are being continued in order to 'drain the regime financially' so to speak."

The statement added that Belarus "is able and will do everything possible to protect its citizens and business entities" and the restrictions "will not have the desired effect."

The EU has been at odds with Belarus since the presidential election in August last year, which President Alexander Lukashenko won. His main political opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, rejected the official results of the vote and claimed there had been voter fraud. Western governments came out in her support, repeating the allegations of vote rigging.

The EU announced on September 15 that it did not recognize Lukashenko as the legitimate president of Belarus.

Lukashenko has rejected allegations that his government tampered with votes, blaming Western countries for orchestrating the demonstrations that followed the vote and conspiring to oust his government.

Lukashenko, however, has so far shrugged off the Western pressure with backing from key ally Russia.

Minsk has also warned that it would be forced to take reciprocal measures that could in turn adversely affect citizens and businesses of Western countries.

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