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23 Dec, 2020 20:23

Amid election chaos in US, Washington expands sanctions over alleged electoral fraud in Belarus

Amid election chaos in US, Washington expands sanctions over alleged electoral fraud in Belarus

The US has slapped additional sanctions on Belarus, targeting the country's election commission, police units and individuals over claimed fraud during the presidential vote in August and the subsequent crackdown on protesters.

The Belarusian Central Election Commission faces restrictions because the vote it organized in the summer was allegedly marred by “myriad of irregularities that made it neither free nor fair, including barring opposition candidates, denying access to poll observers, and certifying inaccurate vote tallies,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Law enforcement from the Minsk Special Purpose Police Unit (OMON), the Main Internal Affairs Directorate of the Minsk City Executive Committee and KGB Alpha were blacklisted over accusations of using excessive force against the people who protested the results of the election. Belarusian deputy interior minister and national police chief, Henadz Kazakevich, was also slapped with sanctions.

“The Belarusian people continually seek to peacefully exercise their basic democratic rights, and the state repeatedly responds with violent crackdowns,” Mnuchin insisted.

The sanctions by the Treasury include a freeze of assets of the blacklisted entities and persons, while also barring American companies and citizens from doing any business with them.

Also on Wednesday, the US State Department imposed visa restrictions on 39 individuals it deemed responsible for undermining democracy in Belarus. Their names weren't disclosed.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Belarusian people “deserve free and fair elections,” while the vote they had earlier this year was full of “irregularities” and followed by “human rights abuses” and “crackdown.”

InOctober, Washington had already blacklisted the country's then-Interior Minister Yuri Karayev and seven other top Belarusian officials. 

Protests have been ongoing in Belarus since the election on August 9, which long-time President Alexander Lukashenko won by a landslide, according to official numbers. However, the opposition refused to acknowledge the results of the vote, saying that it was rigged.

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The crisis sparked massive protests in the capital Minsk and elsewhere across the country with demands for Lukashenko's immediate resignation and a new fair election. Police responded to the dissent with mass arrests, detaining thousands of protesters, while facing accusations of using excessive force and mistreating those taken into custody. Belarusian authorities have been denying any wrongdoing and claiming that the protests are being instigated from abroad. 

The announcement of new sanctions against Belarus didn't go unnoticed on Twitter as some users urged the US authorities to focus on problems in their own electoral systems instead of lecturing other countries.

Donald Trump and millions of his supporters insist that there was widespread voter fraud during November's presidential election in the US, which was won by Democratic candidate, Joe Biden. The incumbent has been trying to contest the results, however, so far the attempts have not brought any significant success in overturning the results.

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