Western nations unveiled a new series of sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko's regime in Belarus on Thursday.
The United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada all imposed sanctions on people and entities close to the Belarusian strongman.
In a joint statement, they said the sanctions were in response to "continuing attacks on human rights and fundamental freedoms in Belarus, disregard for international norms and repeated acts of repression."
The Lukashenko regime has been accused of bringing desperate migrants to Belarus with promises of easy migration to Europe. EU states accuse the regime of encouraging or forcing those migrant groups to rush the border with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia for onward travel in the EU.
EU diplomats announced on the sidelines of a meeting of the Council of Ministers in Brussels that they had decided on a fifth round of sanctions targeting those allegedly involved in the smuggling of migrants to Belarus. The new EU sanctions affect 17 people and 11 companies or institutions.
EU sanctions targeted several commanders involved in the border strife, as well as state airline Belavia and Syrian airline Cham Wings. It accused the airlines of helping to bring people to Belarus and exacerbating the crisis.
EU sanctions also targeted state-owned travel companies, as well as judges, prosecutors and a media figure in relation to political crackdowns and misinformation.
The US Treasury Department published sanctions against 20 individuals and 12 entities, and imposed restrictions on dealings in new issuances of Belarusian sovereign debt, limiting the government's ability to borrow money.
US sanctions targeted people and entities including Lukashenko's son, several aircraft and a fertilizer company.
"Today's actions demonstrate our unwavering determination to act in the face of a brutal regime that increasingly represses Belarusians, undermines the peace and security of Europe, and continues to abuse people seeking only to live in freedom," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
The UK imposed an asset freeze on the state-owned Ojsc Belaruskali, one of the world’s largest producers of potash fertilizer.
"These sanctions continue to target important sources of revenue to the Lukashenko regime and place severe restrictions on those responsible for some of the worst anti-democratic acts in Belarus," British foreign minister Liz Truss said in a statement.
Canada said it would join the other countries, imposing sanctions targeting 20 individuals and 12 entities.
Belarus condemns new sanctions
In a statement carried by Belarusian news agency BELTA, the Belarusian foreign ministry said the new sanctions were "difficult to understand."
It said Belarus was being unfairly demonized. "The entire burden of responsibility is laid on Belarus while blatantly ignoring the true causes of the global migration crisis," it said in the statement.
It said the sanctions would hurt ordinary Belarusians, and called on the EU to reconsider its decision.
It also warned that it could impose asymmetrical measures in response.
aw/sms (Reuters, dpa, AFP)