The United States is taking steps to impose visa restrictions on 25 additional individuals in Belarus for their role in undermining the country’s transition to democracy. Including these 25, the State Department has imposed visa restrictions on 322 individuals complicit in the fraudulent 2020 presidential election and subsequent brutal crackdown on dissent by the Lukashenka regime.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that the 25 individuals covered by the latest action include members of the National Assembly of Belarus. In a statement, he said these individuals face visa restrictions “for their role in passing legislation to authorize the death penalty for persons convicted of supposed ‘attempted acts of terrorism,’ a charge used to repress and intimidate the democratic opposition and civil society.”
The State Department announced this latest action as the trial in absentia of democratic opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and other leading democratic activists opened in Belarus. All have been accused of national security crimes, including “extremism,” in what Secretary Blinken called “politically motivated” proceedings.
Ms. Tsikhanouskaya, who ran against longtime dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the 2020 presidential election and fled the country after the regime’s subsequent bloody crackdown, described her trial as a “farce.” She said she had not been given access to court documents or her court-appointed lawyer before the proceedings.
Belarusian authorities are trying Ms. Tsikhanouskaya, along with other pro-democracy leaders, including Volha Kavalkova, head of the Coordination Council, the body tasked with facilitating Belarus’ democratic transition. Secretary Blinken noted in his recent statement that in a separate trial in December the regime convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation founder Alex Apeikin and Belarusian Olympian Alyaksandra Herasimenia.
“The Lukashenka regime also continues to hold as a political prisoner Nobel Peace Prize laureate Alex Bialiatski, who has dedicated his life to defending human rights and advancing democratic change in Belarus,” said Secretary Blinken.
The United States, Secretary Blinken declared, ”will continue to use all appropriate tools to hold to account those in Belarus standing in the way of their fellow citizens’ democratic aspirations.”