WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today released the following statement on ongoing violence and unrest in Belarus following the presidential election earlier this month:
“It has been nearly three weeks since President Alexander Lukashenka stole another presidential election, and our admiration for the Belarusian people continues to grow. Belarusians have shown the world that they will not sit idly as their futures are stolen, that they are not afraid of terror, and that they will no longer stand the abuses to which Mr. Lukashenka has subjected them for 26 years.
“It is clear that Mr. Lukashenka is intimidated, but he remains in control of a security apparatus capable of inflicting chaos and horror on Belarusians. Workers at state-owned enterprises striking in protest of the election are being threatened with firing and the loss of their livelihoods. Media workers who quit in protest have been replaced by propagandists flown in from Moscow. And Lukashenka continues to use his security services to harshly crack down on protests, especially in the capital Minsk.
“In the past weeks, reports have indicated that more than 7,000 Belarusian citizens were imprisoned, and many have been beaten and arrested for protesting, striking, or simply taking a walk. Such actions represent human rights abuses in connection with political repression, and the U.S. government and our European allies should impose sanctions against the individuals responsible.
“As with all peoples who fight for their freedom, we stand with the citizens of Belarus. Their voices have been heard, and now their votes should be properly and justly counted in a new election. We support the European Union’s (EU) rejection of the results of the August 9th election and call for new, free, fair, and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe-observed presidential elections. We hope to see a dialogue begin that truly accounts for the independent, sovereign future that Belarusians are demanding. The EU’s efforts are a good step in that direction and we should support them.”