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White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced that the United States had joined the European Union, Britain and Canada in slapping simultaneous sanctions on dozens of officials, organizations and companies in Belarus, with the EU taking aim at those accused of taking part in a “hybrid attack” on the bloc using migrants.
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The four countries have targeted Belarus since President Alexander Lukashenko won yet another term in office last year after elections that the West and other observers say were fraudulent, and over the security crackdown on peaceful protestors that followed.
Psaki said Thursday’s sanctions were the fifth time the United States has imposed sanctions on Belarus since August of 2020. “It reflects our united determination to act in the face of the increased repression,” she said.
The U.S. State Department said the U.S. Treasury has “identified three aircraft as blocked property and designated 32 individuals and entities, including Belarussian state-owned enterprises, government officials, and other persons, who support the regime and facilitate its repression.”
Psaki dismissed Russian claims that the U.S. was refusing to hold talks with them over security guarantees, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Europe.
The Kremlin voiced concern Thursday about a possible escalation of fighting in a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine as the U.S. issued a strong warning to Russia to stay away from Ukraine.
“I’m not in a position to preview at this point in time anything we’re considering,” Psaki said.”Other than we are in close coordination (with European allies), preparing a range of options and have conveyed directly to the Russians that if they proceed, as they did in 2014, that we have a range of options that we will consider taking. ”
Ukrainian and Western officials have worried about a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine, fearing it could herald an invasion. But Moscow has insisted it has no such intention and accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making up the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs.
Meanwhile, the White House is reluctantly complying with a court order that rules migrants seeking to enter the United States will again have to stay in Mexico as they await immigration hearings.
Describing the policy as “deeply flawed,” Psaki said the Biden administration’s view of the program had not change.
Mexico’s foreign relations secretary said Mexico will allow returns, beginning next week, in light of U.S. concessions “for humanitarian reasons and for temporary stays.”
Revival of the “Remain in Mexico” policy comes under a court order even as the Biden administration maneuvers to end it in a way that survives legal scrutiny. President Joe Biden scrapped the policy, but a lawsuit by Texas and Missouri has forced him to put it back into effect, subject to Mexico’s acceptance.
About 70,000 asylum-seekers have been subject to the policy, which President Donald Trump introduced in January 2019 and which Biden suspended on his first day in office.
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