The sanctions imposed on Russia because of the war on Ukraine must be fully extended to Belarus. This is the demand of the German-Swiss human rights organisation Libereco – Partnership for Human Rights.

Belarus must always be included in all current sanctions imposed by the West against Russia. This is the only way to remove the basis for the military and political pact between the two countries and prevent Belarus from acting as a sanctions loophole for the Kremlin.

Russia has also attacked Ukraine from Belarus and is using Belarusian territory as a deployment area for its forces, thus encircling Ukraine from the east and north. According to US intelligence reports, Belarus could join the invasion of Ukraine today with its own troops. Moreover, Russia has been circumventing the sanctions of the European Union, the USA and other Western states through Belarus for years.

With the “constitutional referendum” held on Sunday and an alleged result of 65% approval, the Belarusian dictator Lukashenko has secured an unlimited extension of his term in office. The referendum also approved the permanent stationing of Russian nuclear weapons and troops in Belarus. The Belarusian opposition as well as independent observers criticise the referendum as undemocratic, as a free vote was impossible and the secrecy of the vote was prevented because of alleged pandemic measures.

Belarus must finally be excluded from the SWIFT system

Marco Fieber, Chairman of Libereco in Germany, states: “Lukashenko wants to present himself as a mediator and facilitator in the Russia-Ukraine war – in fact he is a loyal accomplice and war partner of Vladimir Putin. This is the only way he can keep himself in power at all. The Western sanctions must therefore hit him and his criminal regime just as hard as Russia. We have been demanding for years that Belarus be excluded from the SWIFT system. Because of its involvement in the Russian war of aggression, the Lukashenko regime must now finally be completely deprived of access to Western funds.”

According to reports from the Belarusian human rights center Viasna, more than 500 people were arrested over the weekend for taking part in protests against the referendum and against the war. At the same time, more than 1000 political prisoners are in jail in Belarus, sentenced to prison terms of up to 18 years.

Lars Bünger, President of Libereco in Switzerland, demands: “All political prisoners must be released immediately and unconditionally. The referendum held was a farce and manipulated from the beginning. Neither were the people involved in its preparation, nor did a large number of people vote. Lukashenko has had the vast majority of people against him since the rigged presidential elections of August 2020. He can only maintain his power with sheer force and repression and the support of Putin. The West must respond to Lukashenko’s daily terror by tightening the sanctions already imposed on Belarus.”