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The United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Canada placed further sanctions on Belarus, accusing the government of President Alexander Lukashenko of human rights violations based on allegedly “orchestrating” irregular migration at the EU’s border.
Britain and the European Union and two North American countries, announced the sanctions in a joint statement on Thursday, declaring a targeting of "certain individuals and entities."
The move comes as part of the ongoing pressure campaign by the West against Lukashenko, whom they accuse of rights abuses and creating a migration crisis.
The U.K. froze the assets of OJSC Belaruskali, a state-owned Belarusian potash fertilizer producer, and the U.S. tightened sanctions against the company, which it blacklisted in August. Washington similarly restricted financial dealings with Belarusian sovereign debt.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the sanctions are meant to "raise the cost" on Lukashenko's government for its crackdown on dissent and attacks on "international norms."
The West blames Belarus for a migration crisis along the Eastern European country's border with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
The EU explicitly accuses Minsk of facilitating the arrival of thousands of people, mainly from the Middle East, at the bloc's border to respond to European sanctions against Lukashenko's government, which Belarus has dismissed as "absurd."
Lukashenka’s callous smuggling of migrants into EU states is the latest example of his disregard for international norms. Today’s actions raise the costs on the Lukashenka regime with one of the most robust Belarus-related sanctions packages to-date.
The impasse has left thousands stranded in the freezing cold along the E.U.'s border. The European Commission proposed measures making it more difficult to seek asylum in Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia on Thursday.
Tensions between the West and the Belarusian government, allied with Russia, intensified in August 2020 after a presidential election that the U.S. describes as "fraudulent" gave Lukashenko a sixth term in office.
Over the past year, the U.S. and European countries have imposed several rounds of sanctions against Lukashenko and his government.
The measures also come amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Russia, with Washington asserting that Moscow is planning "significant aggressive moves" against Ukraine.
Russia mandated the departure of American embassy staff in Moscow by the end of the month on Wednesday, a retaliatory move in response to the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats from Washington.