US and Switzerland expanded sanctions; Tsikhanouskaya begins the second stage of preparations for negotiations with the authorities; security forces will be able to use weapons with impunity and journalists will be considered protesters
31 March 2021 | Voice of Belarus
US and Switzerland impose new economic sanctions against the regime
Switzerland supported EU financial sanctions against key Belarusian officials. 29 individuals and 7 organizations were added to the previous sanctions list. It also includes Lukashenko’s “wallet” Mikalai Varabei.
The decision to expand the list was made after Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s visit to Bern. It should be noted that Switzerland very rarely participates in the sanctions policy, trying to adhere to neutrality.
State Department spokesman Ned Price stated that starting from 27 April, the United States will reimpose suspended sanctions against nine Belarusian companies unless all political prisoners are released.
The sanctions will affect Belarusian companies such as Belarusian Oil Trading House, Belneftekhim and its American subsidiary, Belshina, Hrodna Azot, Plant Khimvolokno, Lakokraska, Naftan and Polotsk Steklovolokno. This means that US enterprises and citizens are prohibited from entering into economic and financial relations with these organizations and all their property and accounts located in the US will be frozen.
The sanctions were imposed in 2006 and were temporarily lifted in 2015. However, the sanctions are reimposed now due to the current situation with the human rights in Belarus. In addition, the representative of the State Department urged the Belarusian authorities to take responsibility and to start a dialogue with the leaders of the political opposition under the auspices of the OSCE in order to hold free and fair elections.
Tsikhanouskaya summed up the results of the first stage of preparation for negotiations with the regime and announced the next stage
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya announced the end of the first stage of preparation for negotiations between the opposition and Lukashenko’s regime. According to the results of a nationwide vote on the Golos platform, more than 760 thousand Belarusians voted for organizing negotiations with government officials via international mediation. The initiative was also supported by the USA, Germany, Norway, Lithuania, Slovenia, Finland, Sweden and Austria. The Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, the US and the EU have expressed their readiness to help organize the dialogue.
The second stage has two goals: the first is to force Lukashenko’s regime to negotiate by putting an external and internal pressure on him, since he will not take part in negotiations voluntarily. The second goal is to decide on the participating parties, format and platform of the negotiations. According to Tsikhanouskaya, this will be the task for the coming weeks. Today, Merkel and Macron spoke in a conversation with Putin about the need for an inclusive dialogue and for holding free elections in Belarus.
New amendments to the legislation: security forces will be able to use weapons with impunity and journalists will be considered protesters
The Belarusian authorities are planning new amendments to the laws regarding the activities of law enforcement agencies.
The main change is that law enforcers would be allowed to use physical force, weapons, special equipment and military equipment at their discretion, even in the event of an administrative offense. The use of military and special equipment to suppress “mass riots” would be legalized. Interior Ministry employees would be allowed to prohibit people from taking photos and videos, otherwise it would be considered an administrative violation. Also, the Ministry of Internal Affairs wants to legislate the ability to access information with personal data from social networks without the owner’s written consent.
At the same time, the authorities want to toughen the norms of the mass media law.
Now it would be easier to block websites: no court decision would be required. Online sources could be blocked if they contain information “promoting extremist activities” and materials that may “lead to threats to national security.”
According to the draft bill, a journalist who covers an unauthorized rally will be considered its participant.
The media would be banned from publishing the results of public opinion polls on the socio-political situation in the country, including elections.
If the amendments are adopted, independent media in Belarus will essentially disappear.
For more information on the events of 29–31 March 2021, please visit Infocenter Free Belarus 2020: