Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has decried new sanctions imposed by the United States and the United Kingdom on his country as part of attempts to pressure him to resign, saying London should “choke on” the restrictive measures.
The British government on Monday imposed sanctions on Belarus’ potash and petroleum product exports, and prohibited the purchase of transferable securities as well as money-market instruments issued by the Belarusian government and its state-owned banks over alleged rights violation during anti-Lukashenko protests last year.
London also said it would prevent Belarusian air carriers from overflying or landing in the United Kingdom and would prohibit the provision of technical assistance to Lukashenko’s fleet of luxury aircraft.
Asked about the sanctions, Lukashenko said Britain should choke on the sanctions, calling British officials “America's lapdogs.”
The sanctions coincide with the first anniversary of an election which opponents claim was rigged to let Lukashenko win. Thousands of people took to the streets to protest his victory, with many people reported to have been arrested or sent into exile abroad.
US President Joe Biden also signed on Monday an executive order that expands anti-Minsk sanctions which have been in place since 2006, targeting a slew of Belarusian officials, business executives and companies.
The latest sanctions take aim at various sectors of the Belarusian economy, including banking, defense, energy, construction and transportation.
Western governments and the European Union have been at odds with Belarus since the presidential election in August last year, rejecting the official results of the vote and claiming there had been voter fraud, without providing any evidence.
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 the votes, blaming Western countries for orchestrating the demonstrations that followed the vote and conspiring to oust his government.
Lukashenko 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.
In April, the Belarusian president said 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.