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Belarusian opp. figure calls for US bans on firms in own country

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)
Belarusian opposition figure Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya gives a press conference at the Lithuanian Permanent Representation to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium, on June 21, 2021. (File photo by AFP)

An exiled Belarusian opposition figure has called for further US sanctions on her country’s businesses to force them away from President Alexander Lukashenko’s government over allegations of vote rigging in last year’s election.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya made the call in a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Monday, after she presented a list of state-controlled companies that she hoped would be targeted with tighter sanctions by the US administration.

Demanding “American active and non-symbolic participation,” the opposition figure called for further sanctions against Belarusian companies operating in the fields of potash, oil, wood, and steel.

Tsikhanouskaya said the businesses would be forced through this measure to “understand that Lukashenko is over,” and that “they have to choose to join a new, transparent country.”

She also called for further restrictive measures from the European Union so they “can influence the behavior of Lukashenko.”

Tsikhanouskaya also told CNN that she would meet with US National Security adviser Jake Sullivan and a number of congressional lawmakers while in Washington.

The development comes as US President Joe Bidens administration has vowed to step up pressure on the Belarusian president.

The EU has been at odds with Belarus since the presidential election in August last year, which Lukashenko won. His main political opponent, Tsikhanouskaya, rejected the official results of the vote and claimed there had been voter fraud, without providing any evidence. Western governments came out in her support, repeating the allegations of vote rigging, also without proof. The EU also announced that it would 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.

The Belarusian president said in April that a coup and assassination attempt against him and his family had been thwarted, stressing that foreign intelligence services, most likely the FBI, the CIA had been involved.

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