WARSAW, Poland — After meeting with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk today in Warsaw, President Obama continued to criticize the authoritarian government of Belarus, calling out President Aleksandr Lukashenko by name.
The comments came one day after the U.S. State Department expanded sanctions against Lukashenko, often called “Europe’s last dictator.”
“President Lukashenko has shown a total disregard for democratic values, the rule of law, and the human rights of his own people,” President Obama said. “And his brutal crackdown included the conviction and sentencing of presidential candidates who challenged him in the presidential election, and the repression and imprisonment of members of the free press, including one of the Polish press.”
The Obama administration announced asset freezes and travel restrictions against Lukashenko and others in January. On Friday the president said in a statement that “ the U.S. Government will pursue new sanctions against Belarusian state-owned enterprises.”
Lukashenko recently jailed political opponents for having organized mass protests after the December 19 presidential elections, widely viewed as a sham. Lukashenko was “re-elected” with almost 80% of the vote. President Obama said the trials of Vladimir Neklyaev, Vitaly Rymashevsky, Andrei Sannikov and Dmitry Uss ”were clearly politically motivated and failed to meet even the most minimal standards required of a fair and independent judiciary.”
After meeting with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski earlier today, he said “Belarus is backsliding. The kind of repressive actions we’re seeing in Belarus can end up having a negative impact on the region as a whole, and that makes us less safe and makes us less secure.”
Since the most recent crackdown began, the governments of the US and Poland have closely coordinated, President Obama said.
-Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller