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The U.S. Imposes New Sanctions On Lukashenko's Financial Backers


The Biden administration has imposed new sanctions on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in response to ongoing political repression and corruption in Belarus. Lukashenko dismisses international criticism and claims his reelection a year ago was fair. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The Treasury Department says it's going after Alexander Lukashenko's wallets - business leaders who finance his personal projects. The U.S. is also imposing sanctions on Belarus' Olympic committee, saying it failed to protect athletes who took part in massive protests against the government. State Department spokesperson Ned Price is calling on Lukashenko to release political prisoners and hold new elections.


NED PRICE: We will continue to impose costs on the regime and its enablers until the repression stops. We once again call on Belarusian authorities to end the crackdown on members of civil society, the media, athletes, students, legal professionals and other citizens.

KELEMEN: The U.S. also wants an international investigation into the Ryanair incident, when a plane was forced to land in Belarus so that authorities could arrest an opposition figure. But as U.S. officials issued statements of condemnation, Alexander Lukashenko sounded defiant in a marathon news conference yesterday.



KELEMEN: "The Okrestina detention center is not a sanatorium," Lukashenko said, though he denied widespread reports of torture there. He also lashed out at sanctions imposed by the U.K. in coordination with the U.S.


LUKASHENKO: (Speaking Russian).

KELEMEN: "You can choke on your sanctions," Lukashenko said, calling the British, quote, "American lapdogs." Exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya welcomed what she calls a principled approach by the U.S. and its partners. She met recently with President Biden and gave the administration a list of potential targets for sanctions.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.