The Biden administration is expected to unveil new Belarus sanctions and a new executive order amid continued crackdowns by the regime of strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko.
A congressional source told CNN that the actions were expected to be announced Monday, marking the one-year anniversary of the Eastern European country’s election, which the international community condemned as fraudulent.
It was not immediately clear what the new sanctions would target, but Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said in a briefing with reporters in Washington, DC, that during her meetings in Washington, DC, last month, she gave the Biden administration a specific list of targets she would like to see sanctioned.
Tsikhanouskaya told reporters that she delivered a list of companies that are monopolized by the regime of Lukashenko “and his cronies,” including potash company Belaruskali, as well as oil, wood and steel enterprises.
The Belarusian opposition politician called on the administration to enact stronger sanctions, saying that she believed the initial tranches were more symbolic and “moral sanctions.”
“They didn’t hit the regime and I think that we really lost time,” she said. Tsikhanouskaya said that the sectoral sanctions imposed by the European Union following Lukashenko’s forced diversion of a Ryanair flight and arrest of a dissident Belarusian journalist on board were strong. The US could follow that policy, she said, “and also look at possibility to impose sectoral sanctions on Lukashenka,” she said.
Tsikhanouskaya met with President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and congressional lawmakers during her time in the United States capital.
CNN has reached out to the State Department, National Security Council, and Treasury about the expected actions.
‘Send a signal’
Tsikhanouskaya this week called on the international community “to send a signal of solidarity with Belarusians fighting for democracy & freedom” on August 9, the anniversary of the disputed election that sparked massive protests across Belarus.
Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and GOP Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi on Friday announced the launch of the Free Belarus Caucus, which will “press for democracy in Belarus, including free and fair elections; fight for a free media and protection for journalists; and support neighboring countries, such as Lithuania and Poland, in their efforts to help the people of Belarus,” according to a press release.
The administration announced sanctions in June as part of a coordinated response with the United Kingdom, Canada, and European Union to the Lukashenko government’s forced landing of the Ryanair flight, as well as the “continuing repression” in the former Soviet state.
US Ambassador to Belarus Julie Fisher told Senate lawmakers in early June that the administration was “focused on a new executive order on the earliest possible timeline.”
“You’re exactly right. 2006 was a long time ago,” she said in response to committee chairman Sen. Bob Menendez, who referenced the executive order on Belarus issued by then-President George W. Bush.
“It was a very different world, and there is room for us to do an awful lot with a new executive order. That is an effort that is underway,” Fisher said at the time. “Our goal remains that we are at, we’re focused on promoting accountability for those individuals and entities who are responsible for, or are complicit in the regime’s violent repression of civil society and for those human rights abuses. So we will continue to bring new authorities and new tools of pressure to bear.”
Lukashenko, who has been shunned by much of the international community and has been under US sanctions since 2006, has cracked down sharply on protesters and journalists in the country. CNN reported this week that a possible prison camp for political dissidents may have been constructed about an hour from the capital city of Minsk. Belarusian Olympic sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya defected to Poland after alleging that representatives of the national team tried to send her back to Belarus against her will after she criticized sporting authorities.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistranscribed what Tsikhanouskaya said about the United States and sectoral sanctions.