Today Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko lashed out at the UK, calling Britain “America’s pocket dog” as Westminster joined Washington in imposing further sanctions on his regime.
The 66-year-old strongman raged against Western journalists at a press conference in Minsk, telling the UK to “choke on your sanctions” before adding: “We didn’t know what ‘was Britain for 1,000 years, and we don’t want to know that now.
He added: “You risk starting World War III,” he added. “Is that what you are trying to push us and the Russians into?” “
Lukashenko, who has been president of this Eastern European country since 1994, was speaking at an event marking the first anniversary of his “re-election”.
He also beat up Olympic defector Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, denied the murder of a critic in Ukraine and insisted he was legitimately elected despite ample evidence to the contrary.
Alexander Lukashenko today called the UK “American lapdogs” when asked about new sanctions against his regime
He added that the protests against him were simply part of a foreign plot to end his regime and denied that his security services tortured or beat political activists – calling all evidence to the contrary “false.”
Asked about Tsimanouskaya – who fled the Belarusian Olympic team to Tokyo fearing for her safety – Lukashenko said she was “manipulated” to flee through Poland, where she now lives.
He also rocked his record by declaring: “She took 36th place in her discipline – say no more!” Why did we include it? ‘
Separately, he denied ordering the murder of Vitaly Shishov – a Belarusian activist who was found hanged in a park in Ukraine last week – calling him “nobody”.
But her sharpest comments were kept for a question posed by BBC correspondent Sarah Rainsford.
When asked what he thought of the new sanctions imposed by the UK and US today, he replied, “You can choke your sanctions in Britain!
“We didn’t know what ‘Britain’ was for 1000 years, and we don’t want to know it now. You are American lapdogs!
Seen in response to human rights violations and the hijacking of a Ryanair plane, the new measures include a ban on flying or landing Belarusian planes and a ban on UK companies serving the private jet fleet by Lukashenko.
Lukashenko speaking at rare press conference featuring members of foreign media in Minsk to mark one year since his “re-election”
A financial package is also aimed at limiting the ability of the Belarusian state and its banks to raise funds on international markets.
Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said: “The Lukashenko regime continues to crush democracy and violate human rights in Belarus.
“These sanctions demonstrate that the UK will not accept Lukashenko’s actions since the fraudulent elections.
“The products of Lukashenko’s state industries will not be sold in the UK and our aerospace companies will not touch its fleet of luxury aircraft.”
The government also said its response would include further tightening of the existing arms embargo.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden was due to sign an executive order on Monday targeting Lukashenko for “a permanent aggression against the democratic aspirations and human rights of the Belarusian people, transnational repression … and corruption”.
In power since 1994, Lukashenko has cracked down on his opponents since unprecedented protests erupted after last year’s elections.
“Since then, the regime has only extended its repression, in particular by threatening the safety of an Olympic athlete outside its borders,” said an American official.
“With today’s actions, President Biden is delivering on his promise to hold the Belarusian regime accountable for its abuses.”
Asked about Olympic defector Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, Lukashenko said she was “manipulated” into leaving the country while attacking her sporting exploits
The latest sanctions target key institutions and Lukashenko supporters, including the Belarusian National Olympic Committee, business leaders and companies such as a Belarusian private bank.
Also on the list is Belaruskali OAO, one of the largest state-owned enterprises in Belarus and one of the largest potash producers in the world. It would be an illegal source of wealth for the regime.
The United States accused the National Olympic Committee of facilitating money laundering, evasion of sanctions and circumvention of visa bans.
Western countries have already imposed a series of sanctions on Lukashenko and his regime, but these appear to have had limited effect as he maintains the support of his key ally and creditor, Russia.
Tsimanouskaya, 24, arrived in Poland on Wednesday after being granted a humanitarian visa, saying she was “happy to be safe”.
According to the local rights group Viasna, there are currently 603 political prisoners in Belarus.
The United States will call for an international investigation into the hijacking of the Ryanair flight, the release of all political prisoners and a free and fair election.
Ryanair flight, bound for Greece to Lithuania, carrying eminent critic of the regime Roman Protasevich, was hijacked by a Belarusian plane on the pretext of a bomb threat as it crossed the country’s airspace .
Stopped in Minsk, Protesevich was removed from the plane and stopped before the rest of the passengers were allowed to re-board and the flight continued to Vilnius.
Belarus is ‘no longer safe for its citizens’, says Olympic defector from new home in Poland
A Belarusian sprinter whose Cold War-style defection during the Olympics gripped the world on Monday urged her fellow citizens to follow her example and speak out against the regime.
In an interview with AFP on the occasion of the first anniversary of a contested presidential election in Belarus, Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said Belarus was “no longer a safe country for its own citizens”.
“People are afraid to go to demonstrations because they are afraid of being beaten, they are afraid of ending up in prison,” said the 24-year-old, speaking in a Warsaw office of the Belarusian pro-opposition sports solidarity foundation. (BSSF).
“I would like my country to be free, I would like every citizen to have the right to freedom of expression, for everyone to be able to live a normal life and stop being afraid,” she said.
Belarus has been rocked by unprecedented mass protests against strongman Alexander Lukashenko’s regime since he claimed victory in the August 9 elections which the opposition claimed were rigged in his favor.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who fled the Belarusian Olympic athletics team after being threatened by the regime, spoke today from her new home in Poland
Tsimanouskaya, who appeared calm but tense during the interview, said she would one day like to return to Belarus to her family, but “only when it is safe and free”.
When asked if this meant that Lukashenko should no longer be in power, she replied: “He can probably only be free without him”.
Tsimanouskaya fell out with her coaches during the Olympics and accused them of trying to force her home on August 1.
She turned to the Japanese police for help and then obtained a humanitarian visa from Poland, who accommodated her at its embassy in Tokyo and airlifted her to Warsaw under diplomatic protection.
Tsimanouskaya said what persuaded her to contact the police was a phone call from her grandmother in Belarus when she was already on her way to Tokyo airport.
“She called me and told me that I should not come back to Belarus and that I should do everything possible not to come back,” she said.
The athlete said she feared that if she returned she would end up “in a psychiatric clinic or in jail”.
Also speaking at a press conference on Monday, Lukashenko accused the sprinter of being “controlled” by Warsaw.
She responded by saying that was “absolutely wrong” and that her actions had not been planned in advance, adding: “I asked for help myself at the very last minute.”
Two Belarusian coaches were later stripped of their credentials by the International Olympic Committee, which is conducting a broader investigation into the incident.
Tsimanouskaya said she did not regret what she had done because “I do not regret showing the truth to the world”.
“Maybe all these years of sport have made me stronger… I won’t allow anyone to disrespect me,” said the athlete.
She said she believed there were other people in the same situation as her and urged them to “muster enough courage” to leave Belarus.
The BSSF says there are seven athletes jailed in Belarus as political prisoners and 36 professional athletes and coaches who have been fired from national teams for their opinions.
Tsimanouskaya is currently auctioning off the silver medal she won at the 2019 European Games in Minsk on eBay to raise money for the foundation to help other athletes.
The auction for the medal on Monday at 2:00 p.m. GMT was $ 20,000 (17,000 euros).
Asked about her own sporting future, she replied that nothing was certain but that the Polish authorities were helping her and she hopes she can be allowed to run for another national team.
“I’m watching the next Olympics. I would like to participate.