August 9, 2022 Russia-Ukraine News

The US State Department has sanctioned two senior Belarusian officials “for involvement in gross human rights violations, namely the arbitrary detention of peaceful protesters”, and will impose visa restrictions “on 100 regime officials and to their affiliates for their involvement in undermining or harming democratic institutions or impeding the transition to democracy,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday.

The measures were announced on the second anniversary of elections in Belarus – a fraudulent election and one in which longtime strongman Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory. This sparked massive protests across the country.

“The people of Belarus have shown remarkable resilience by supporting the pro-democracy movement for two years at the cost of great personal sacrifice. These calls for democracy are voiced by Belarusians exiled abroad, more than 1,200 political prisoners unjustly detained inside the country and countless ordinary Belarusian citizens,” Blinken said in a statement.

“Their peaceful calls for democracy have been met with unprecedented brutal force and consolidated repression by the Lukashenko regime,” he said.

The two individuals sanctioned on Tuesday – Mikalai Karpiankou, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and Commander of Internal Troops, and Dzmitriy Balaba, Commander of the Special Police Force (OMON) of the Executive Committee of Internal Affairs of the city of Minsk – “played a significant role in the crackdown surrounding the fraudulent August 9, 2020 presidential election,” Blinken said.

“Today’s action expands the existing restrictions on Karpiankou and Balaba to include visa restrictions against their immediate family members, including Karpiankou’s wife Irina and adult son Igor, and the wife of Balaba Tatyana and her adult sons Artem and Maksim, making them ineligible to enter the United States,” he said.

According to Blinken, the new slice of people facing visa restrictions includes “those in high-ranking positions in the President’s administration, the Interior Ministry, the State Security Committee (KGB), the Central Election Commission, the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Central Office of the Investigative Committee, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption (GUBOPiK), the National Television and state radio “Belteleradio”, the second national television channel and the air force and air defense forces”, as well as “members of parliament, district judges, security officials, members of executive committees and administrators of state universities”.

“Individuals subject to the proclamation have been implicated in acts of torture; violent arrests of peaceful demonstrators; searches of the homes and offices of journalists, opposition members and activists; forced confessions; electoral fraud; politically motivated convictions of political prisoners; expulsion of students for participating in peaceful protests; the adoption of laws affecting the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms; and acts of transnational repression,” Blinken said.

Christi C. Elwood