EU threatens Lukashenko with sanctions | free press

Minsk/Brussels (dpa) – The European Union has threatened Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko with additional sanctions on the anniversary of the allegedly rigged presidential elections.

“Given the regime’s blatant disregard for international obligations, the EU is ready to consider further measures,” foreign representative Josep Borrell said on behalf of the 27 member states on Sunday. By exploiting migrants for political ends, Belarus is questioning other international norms.

Borrell alluded to the fact that more than 2000 illegal border crossings were registered at the border between EU member state Lithuania and Belarus (formerly: Belarus) in July alone. From an EU perspective, this is specifically done by the government in Minsk. Lukashenko had openly threatened to let people from countries like Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria through in response to EU sanctions.

‘At the moment no one can feel safe’

Lukashenko’s opponent Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who claims victory in the August 9, 2020 elections, continues to demand more pressure on the power apparatus in Minsk. “At the moment no one can feel safe, including me,” said the 38-year-old, who is now living in exile, of the German news agency. The civil rights activist referred to the case of Belarusian exile Vitaly Schischow, who was recently found dead in Ukraine.

The case of Belarusian Olympic athlete Kristina Timanovskaya had shown that any Lukashenko “repressive apparatus” could fall victim. “Any wrong move or overt statement – even if not political – could lead to arrest and jail time.” The athlete, who she said would be kidnapped by the Tokyo Olympics for criticizing Belarusian sports officials, had fled to Poland.

EU calls for the release of political prisoners

Lukashenko, 66, who has been in power for more than a quarter of a century, was confirmed in office a year ago with 80.1 percent of the vote. He had months of peaceful mass protests after the election, sometimes brutally suppressed. The EU no longer recognizes him as president. The demonstrations left several dead, hundreds injured and thousands arrested. Due to the repression of civil society and democratic opposition, the EU and the US have already imposed several sanctions in recent months.

The EU also called for the release of more than 600 political prisoners and for free and fair elections on Sunday. But the demands of the West are bouncing back. Minsk had also responded with counter-sanctions and announced, for example, that it would renounce Western goods.

State media celebrate independence victory

Lukashenko, backed by Russia and personally by Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin, repeatedly emphasizes that he has successfully suppressed the revolution in his country. The state media celebrated the anniversary as another victory for independence. Lukashenko claims that the revolution was instigated by the West.

Tikhanovskaya rejected this several times. She is now fighting for the democratic movement from Lithuania. She was recently received by President Joe Biden during a trip to the United States. Such meetings are very important so that the ex-Soviet republic does not disappear from the agenda and lost diplomatic relations are restored.

Tikhanovskaya once again underlined the importance of Western sanctions. “We believe that economic and political pressure can help the regime change its behavior and force it to engage in dialogue with Belarusians, release political prisoners and sit down at the negotiating table,” she said. The many illegal border crossings also showed that Lukashenko’s power apparatus “posed a threat to people from other countries as well.”

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