US senators urge sanctions after Belarus opposition talks

VILNIUS: A delegation of US senators called for harsher economic sanctions on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime on Tuesday after meeting exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.
Senator Rob Portman said the sanctions currently in place “clearly have not been effective enough”.
“I will support broader sanctions that would be sectoral sanctions, not just on individuals, but on places where Lukashenko’s regime will feel the pain,” he said.
The US said last week it was working with the EU on fresh sanctions after Belarus diverted a flight bound for Lithuania, forced it to land in Minsk and then seized a dissident journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega on board.
Senator Chris Murphy said the plane incident was “brazen, something the world has never seen before”, while Senator Jeanne Shaheen called it an “extraordinary abuse of power”.
The senators called for the release of Protasevich and Sapega and other political prisoners in Belarus and said a new presidential election should be held there.
“To Lukashenko I say: it is time for you to go. Make room for a democratically elected leader, more deserving of your people,” Shaheen said.
Tikhanovskaya said after the meeting that the situation in Belarus was “getting worse day by day”.
“Lukashenko has clearly become a threat to international peace and security. The crisis in Belarus is not a problem of Belarusian people alone,” she said.
Sanctions against nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises, re-imposed by Washington in April following a crackdown on pro-democracy protests, will come into effect on Thursday.
Tikhanovskaya welcome the sanctions but asked for “further measures and targeted sanctions against enterprises and industries supporting the regime”.

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