Speed Reads

Don't Let Them In

White House blocks Belarusian visas after accusing country of harming democracy

The Biden administration on Tuesday announced that it would be enacting a series of sweeping visa restrictions against 25 top Belarusian officials after accusing that country of undermining democracy through sham trials. 

"The Lukashenka regime continues to repress the Belarusian people and their democratic aspirations, including with the politically motivated trial in absentia of democratic opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and other democratic activists on baseless charges," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a press release. "These politically motivated trials are the latest examples of the Lukashenka regime's efforts to intimidate and repress those who seek justice, respect for human rights, and a democratic Belarus."

The move comes after Belarus began in absentia the trial of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya for treason and conspiracy. A 2020 candidate for president in Belarus, Tsikhanouskaya's candidacy was repeatedly undermined by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. While Lukashenko — who has referred to himself as a dictator multiple times — claimed victory, the elections were not thought to be free or fair, and neither the U.S. nor the EU has recognized Lukashenko's win. 

Following the election, Tsikhanouskaya exiled herself to Lithuania, where she has remained ever since. She has called her trial in Belarus a "farce and a show," a sentiment that the White House seems to agree with. 

The names of the 25 officials restricted by the U.S. were not released. However, a State Department spokesperson told The Hill that they were members of the Belarusian parliament that had passed "legislation expanding the use of the death penalty for persons convicted of supposed 'attempted acts of terrorism,'" a charge that the State Department said was used mainly as an intimidation tactic.