Blinken meets Belarus opposition chief as criticism mounts
WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken met on Monday with Belarus’ most important opposition chief as the USA steps up criticism of the federal government in Minsk for a widening crackdown on dissent following disputed elections final 12 months.
Blinken met with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya on the State Division to point out assist for her and different protesters demanding an finish to repression. Tsikhanouskaya was President Alexander Lukashenko’s most important challenger within the August 2020 election and was compelled to depart the nation after the polls that the opposition and the West noticed as rigged.
“They mentioned the continuing repression, the crackdown by the Lukashenko regime and the steps that we have now mentioned, and far of the worldwide group has mentioned, that the Lukashenko regime should take,” State Division spokesperson Ned Worth informed reporters.
“As you already know, Ms. Tsikhanouskaya has been on the forefront of the opposition motion in Belarus, and we had been completely happy to welcome her to the division in the present day and to proceed our efforts to face with the Belarusian folks and their aspirations for human rights, democracy, and their broader Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” he mentioned.
Tsikhanouskaya is in Washington this week assembly with Biden administration officers and lawmakers to hunt their backing.
Monday’s assembly got here after authorities in Belarus widened the crackdown final week by raiding the houses and places of work of dozens of impartial media shops and civic leaders, prompting condemnations by the USA and European nations. The nation’s most important safety company, which nonetheless goes beneath its Soviet-era identify KGB, mentioned these focused had been suspected of involvement in “extremist actions.”
“The continued crackdown on journalists and civil society is the Lukashenka regime’s newest brutality,” Worth mentioned on Friday. “We name on the Belarusian authorities to launch their 550-plus political prisoners and interact in a dialogue with the opposition and civil society. We stand with the folks of Belarus.”
Lukashenko, the longtime authoritarian chief of Belarus, has promised to “cope with” organizations that he accuses of fomenting unrest within the aftermath of the election and months of protests in opposition to his rule. Lukashenko was proclaimed the victor, cementing a sixth time period in workplace, regardless of widespread complaints the vote was neither free nor honest.
Authorities responded to the demonstrations with an enormous crackdown, together with police beating hundreds of demonstrators and arresting greater than 35,000 folks.
General, 32 Belarusian journalists are in custody, both serving their sentences or awaiting trial, based on the Belarusian Affiliation of Journalists.