Russia Dramatically Increases Number Of ‘Penal Labor’ Sentences

The United States issued new sanctions against several Belarusian entities and individuals on August 9, the third anniversary of the 2020 presidential election that kept authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka in power.

The Crisis In Belarus

Read our coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election.

The U.S. Treasury Department said the new sanctions target entities involved in the regime’s “continued civil society repression,” its complicity in the Russia’s unjustified war in Ukraine, and the “enrichment” of Lukashenka.

The sanctions imposed by the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) target eight individuals, including the general-director of Belarusian Steel Works and members of the family that the department said controls significant portions of the tobacco products and transportation sectors in Belarus.

They also hit three state-owned entities, including airline Belavia, and a Canadair regional jet used by high-ranking officials and members of Lukashenka’s family, the Treasury Department said in a news release.

The news release refers to the August 9, 2020, election as “fraudulent” and says the sanctions highlight “the unified view that Belarus’s prolonged subjugation of its people and its continued support of Russia’s war against Ukraine remain a global concern.”

Brian Nelson, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the sanctions are meant to disrupt the state-owned enterprises and key government officials that the regime relies on “to generate substantial revenue to support its fiercely undemocratic and repressive policies.”

In addition to Belavia, the companies targeted include state-owned enterprises Minsk Civil Aviation Plant 407 and Belarusian Steel Works (BSW). All three have been previously designated by the OFAC.

Minsk Civil Aviation Plant 407 is one of the biggest aircraft component manufacturer and repair facilities in Belarus and has been highlighted by Russian President Vladimir Putin as a key facility for Belarusian production to meet Russia’s civil and military aircraft demand, the Treasury Department said.

The OFAC also targeted Belarusian businessman Alyaksey Aleksin, who it said is a close confidant of Lukashenka and known as one of Lukashenka’s “wallets,” receiving preferential treatment from the government in exchange for providing funds to Lukashenka and other members of his inner circle.

Shortly before his designation, Aleksin transferred ownership in several key businesses to his sons, Dzmitry Aleksin and Vital Aleksin, and his wife, Ina Aleksina, all of whom were designated for sanctions on August 9.

The new sanctions also apply to the Department of Financial Investigations (DFR) and its top directors for what the Treasury Department said was its oppression of independent media and civil society actors.

The sanctions freeze all property and interests in property in U.S. jurisdiction owned by the designated persons and entities. The OFAC’s regulations also generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons that involve any property of the people designated.

The State Department on August 9 also took action to impose visa restrictions on 101 regime officials and their affiliates for their involvement in undermining or suppressing democratic institutions in Belarus.

The list includes several judges responsible for issuing what the State Department said were unjust and excessive politically motivated sentences against Belarusians for exercising their fundamental freedoms, including posting their grievances about the regime on social media.

“The United States continues to stand with the brave people of Belarus as they seek a country grounded in the rule of law, respect for human rights, and an accountable, democratically elected government,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in the State Department’s news release.

Blinken also reiterated U.S. calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all 1,500 political prisoners held by the Lukashenka regime, including Ales Byalyatski, Viktar Babaryka, Maryya Kalesnikava, Ihar Losik, and Syarhey Tsikhanouski.


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