Connect with us

World News

US hits Belarusian officials with travel bans for crackdown | Europe News

Published

on

US secretary of state announces sanctions on 43 Belarusian nationals hours after two journalists are sentenced.

The United States on Thursday imposed travel restrictions on 43 Belarusian nationals identified as taking part in President Alexander Lukashenko’s “crackdown” on protesters and journalists.

The US action was announced by Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement that followed the sentencing Thursday of two journalists who had livestreamed an enormous protest in Minsk in November.

Katsiaryna Bakhvalava, age 27, and Daria Chultsova, 23, both of the Polish-funded Belsat TV channel were sentenced to two years in prison covering the protest.

The State Department also noted raids by Belarusian authorities on February 16 on Vyasna, an association of journalists, and on independent trade union workers.

Blinken’s statement said the US “remains alarmed by the Lukashenka regime’s continuing violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, pro-democracy activists, and journalists”.

The sanctions restricting travel to the US apply to “high-ranking justice sector officials, law enforcement leaders and rank-and-file personnel who detained and abused peaceful demonstrators”, Blinken’s statement said.

In addition, judges and prosecutors involved in sentencing protesters and journalists, as well as academic administrators who threatened students for participation in protests were also sanctioned.

More than 33,000 people have been detained in a violent crackdown on protests against Lukashenko’s rule following a contested election last August that his opponents have said was rigged to extend his rule, according to the Reuters news service.

The crackdown has prompted Western countries to impose new sanctions on Minsk. Lukashenko has refused to step down, buttressed by support from Moscow, which sees Belarus as a buffer state against the European Union and NATO.

Previously, Washington had expanded sanctions on Belarus, targeting four entities and 40 individuals for their roles in the disputed presidential election and the government’s subsequent arrests of protesters.

The two journalists – Bakhvalava, who also goes by the last name of Andreyeva, and Chultsova – were arrested in November after police broke down the door of a Minsk apartment where they were broadcasting a livestream of a demonstration in the Belarusian capital.

Journalists Katsiaryna Andreyeva, right, and Daria Chultsova stand inside a defendants’ cage in a courtroom in Minsk, Belarus, as the court sentenced the two female journalists to two years in prison for covering a protest against the nation’s authoritarian president [AP Photo]

Addressing the court before the verdict, Bakhvalava promised to continue working for “building a Belarus that won’t have political repressions”, according to The Associated Press.

“I’m not pleading. I’m demanding acquittal for me and my colleagues,” she said, referring to other jailed journalists.

The two were charged with “organising actions rudely violating public order” – accusations they denied.

Meanwhile, a trial began Wednesday in Belarus for a bank executive who had aspired to challenge Lukashenko in last year’s election but was blocked from running due to criminal charges.

Viktor Babariko, 57, the former head of Russia-owned Belgazprombank, has been jailed since June on corruption and money laundering charges. He has dismissed the accusations, saying they were intended to prevent him from challenging Lukashenko.



Source link

Continue Reading
Comments

World News

US says it has jabbed 82 million people, topping the world | Coronavirus pandemic News

Published

on

But coronavirus rates have plateaued over the past week, raising concern over yet another surge in cases and deaths.

The United States has administered 82 million coronavirus vaccine shots, White House officials announced on Friday, more than any other country in the world.

During a coronavirus task force news conference, health officials said 55 percent of Americans aged 65 and older have now received at least one shot, up from 8 percent just six weeks ago.

“Altogether we’ve administered more than 82 million shots, more than any country in the world,” said Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for the COVID-19 response team.

But the US has also suffered more deaths than any other country in the world – more than 518,000 Americans have lost their lives to the disease.

President Joe Biden has set a goal of 100 million vaccines administered during his first 100 days in office [File: Evan Vucci/AP Photo]

US President Joe Biden who took office in January has promised to make tackling the pandemic a top priority for his administration and has set a target to vaccinate 100 million Americans by early May – to coincide with his 100 days in office. He has said the country is well under way to meeting that goal.

Officials say 450 vaccination sites have been set up around the country which has sped up the effort and they have plans to open up more sites as vaccine supplies increase over the next weeks.

In an effort to further boost the campaign, last week the US gave emergency approval to use a third vaccine produced by drugmaker Johnson & Johnson. Biden has also announced that the US will manufacture the J&J vaccine, a shot that requires only one dose, further speeding up the effort.

But even with the vaccination campaign well under way, officials said deaths and infection rates have plateaued in recent days, indicating that the nation could be at risk of yet another surge.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said amid the rapid spread of new variants across the country, Americans need to ‘double down’ on protection measures of wearing masks, maintaining social distance and frequent hand washing [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, said over the past week, there have been daily 60,000-70,000 new coronavirus cases, and 1,900 Americans have been dying every day.

“The current numbers remain concerning,” Walensky said, “cases and deaths are still too high, and have now plateaued for more than week.”

Amid the rapid spread of new variants, which have been detected in 48 US states, she urged Americans need to “double down” on protection measures of wearing masks, maintaining social distance and frequent hand washing.

“I know that the idea of relaxing mask wearing and getting back to every day activities is appealing,” she said, “but we’re not there yet.”

Several states have in recent days announced the easing of coronavirus restrictions on businesses and have lifted statewide mandates to wear masks. Health officials have responded with concern and urged Americans to continue to wear masks and follow precautions set under federal guidelines.

Biden blasted the decisions by state governors on Thursday, calling it “a big mistake” and “the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking.”

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor said the current numbers are an indication of a likely fourth surge in cases.

“When you have that much viral activity in a plateau it almost invariably means that you are at risk for another spike,” he said.

During the briefing on Friday, officials also announced that the CDC is working on publishing guidance for fully vaccinated individuals, indicating which activities they may or may not be able to resume.



Source link

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Top Stories