Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya has called on the United States to apply more sanctions to pressure authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has led a brutal crackdown against prodemocracy protests triggered by last year’s disputed presidential election.
Speaking virtually at a U.S. congressional hearing on May 6, Tsikhanouskaya also urged the United States to engage in international mediation jointly with European partners to help end the crisis in Belarus.
“We call on the U.S. to use its diplomacy to further isolate Lukashenka, to underscore his point of political no return has passed,” said Tsikhanouskaya, who lives in self-imposed exile in Lithuania. Describing human rights abuses and "relentless political repression" in her country, she asked Congress to increase its support for civil society, independent media, and human right defenders in exile and in Belarus. The opposition leader claims to have won last August’s presidential election and has sought to unite opposition forces in the face of a brutal regime crackdown on mass protests.
The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on senior figures in Lukashenka’s government over what they say was a fraudulent election and ongoing human rights abuses.
In April, the United States said it would not renew a special license authorizing transactions with nine state-owned Belarusian companies. Tsikhanouskaya called those sanctions "among the most effective measures," but she called on Washington to punish other entities and regime figures in her country. She also asked that the United States keep Belarus high on the international agenda and help organize an international conference.