US Congress Called for New Elections in Belarus

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The House of Representatives of the US Congress adopted a resolution in support of the people of Belarus, in which called the Lukashenko regime illegitimate, and the Coordination Council a legitimate institution for a dialogue on power transfer. The House of Representatives of the US Congress at its meeting on Tuesday, April 20, adopted a resolution "In support of the people of Belarus and their democratic aspirations and against election fraud and subsequent brutal repressions against peaceful protesters by the illegitimate Lukashenko  regime." The resolution was introduced for consideration on February 15 by Democratic Congressman Bill Keating. The resolution fixes the assessment of the current situation in Belarus by the Congress: the elections on August 9, 2020 are recognized as unfree and unfair, the protests that followed the elections demonstrated the striving of Belarusians for a democratic society, while the Belarusian authorities arbitrarily detained and severely beat demonstrators, persecuted opposition leaders and civil activists ... Congressmen note that hundreds of reports of torture, sexual violence and ill-treatment of detainees arrested for peaceful protests have been documented, and "thousands of Belarusians fled to neighboring countries in search of political asylum." Separately, the resolution drew attention to the persecution of independent journalists: arrests, intimidation, denial of accreditation of representatives of foreign media. Mentioned in the text of the resolution are Igor Losik, Kateryna Barisevich, Yekaterina Andreeva and Daria Chultsova, who were sentenced to long imprisonment in Belarus. At the same time, the congressmen noted the participation of the Belarusian state TV channels "in encouraging violence against peaceful demonstrators." It also says about the role of the IT industry - it "played a prominent role in the democratic movement, demanding an end to violence, as well as creating safe platforms for demonstrators to communicate and track people who were detained or missing during mass detentions", while "Belarusian authorities have consistently blocked internet channels in an attempt to restrict communication between demonstrators and have persecuted leading technology companies and their pro-democracy employees." The resolution refers to a survey of IT specialists in Belarus, which showed that 15 percent have already moved to neighboring countries, and more than 40 percent are preparing to move, "which may lead to a devastating loss of talent for Belarus." Congress calls for new elections Members of the House of Representatives urge Lukashenko and the Belarusian authorities to engage in dialogue with the opposition. At the same time, they call the Coordination Council, created by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a legitimate institution to participate in the dialogue on the peaceful transfer of power. The new elections, as stated in the resolution, must be supervised by the OSCE. Congress condemns human rights violations against peaceful demonstrators, demands an end to violence against civilians, release all those detained in connection with the protests, and calls for an international investigation of human rights violations in Belarus. In addition, it is recommended to expand the increase in support to Belarusian civil society, legal aid for journalists and activists. Congressional Calls for Increased Targeted Sanctions The resolution calls for coordinating further targeted sanctions with the EU, Canada and the UK against the Belarusian authorities who committed human rights violations, representatives of the election commission who participated in falsifications, and Belarusian state-owned companies that violated the rights of their workers to protest. Congress is calling on US partners in the transatlantic community to "review financial assistance that supports the Lukashenko regime, including engaging in government debt issues or procurement contracts." On April 19, the United States resumed sanctions against nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises, which were suspended in 2015. The list includes Belarusian Oil Trading House, Belneftekhim, Belneftekhim USA, Belshina, Grodno Azot, Grodno Khimvolokno, Lakokraska, Naftan, Polotsk Steklovolokno. The cooperation of American citizens and companies with these enterprises should end after 45 days, by June 3, 2021. Any transactions with them and with companies in which these enterprises have a share of 50 percent or more are prohibited.