US sanctions Belarus’ election officials, president’s plane

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. imposed sanctions Friday on seven Belarusian elections officials, two state-owned automotive manufacturers and President Alexander Lukashenko’s aircraft.

Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, intensified his repression after a wave of protests in 2020 following a presidential election that the West and Belarus’ opposition denounced as a sham.

Lukashenko also has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and has allowed him to station troops and weapons there to support his war in Ukraine.

Those sanctioned Friday include a new slate of commissioners on Belarus’ Central Election Commission, which was originally sanctioned in December 2020.

Lukashenko accused the opposition presidential candidate, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, of plotting to overthrow the government. This month, a Belarusian court sentenced Tsikhanouskaya, now living in exile, to 15 years in prison.

Lukashenko’s aircraft, a Boeing 737 that he uses for international travel, was also designated for sanctions, which blocks its use in the U.S.

BelAZ, one of the largest manufacturers of large trucks and dump trucks in the world, and the automotive manufacturer MAZ were also sanctioned.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the U.S. “will continue to impose costs on the regime and those who support it for their repression of the people of Belarus” and for the Belarusian government’s support for Russia’s war.

The State Department also imposed visa restrictions on 14 additional people involved in “policies to threaten and intimidate the Belarusian people.”

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