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New U.S. sanctions for Belarus officials over crackdown on foreign dissidents

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By Euronews & AFP
Belarusian Olympic athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya poses for photos during an AFP interview in Warsaw, on August 9, 2021.
Belarusian Olympic athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya poses for photos during an AFP interview in Warsaw, on August 9, 2021.   -   Copyright  WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP or licensors   -  

The U.S. announced new visa restrictions on several unnamed Belarus nationals over the treatment of athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya and other efforts to suppress dissent abroad. 

The State Department announced in a statement Thursday that it was acting on the case of Tsimanouskaya, who was threatened with forcible repatriation to Belarus from the 2021 Tokyo Olympics for making critical comments about the country's sporting authorities. 

Tsimanouskaya ultimately avoided deportation and made it to Poland, where she was given a visa. 

"We stand in solidarity with Ms. Tsimanouskaya and all those who have experienced the regime's attempts to silence criticism," said the statement.

The re-election of Alexander Lukashenko as President of Belarus in August 2020 sparked a historic protest movement in this former Soviet republic which was violently repressed by the authorities. 

In the months since the authorities have arrested thousands of people and cracked down on critical media and NGOs. 

"The United States reaffirms its support for the people of Belarus, and once again calls on the Lukashenko regime to end the crackdown on members of civil society, independent media, political opposition, athletes, students , legal professionals, and other Belarusians," the State Department said.

Sprinter Tsimanouskaya, a specialist in the 100m and 200m, said in August 2021 that she had escaped forced repatriation a few days after openly criticizing the Athletics Federation of her country which had registered her for the 4x400m relay of the Olympics without prior notice.

Fearing that she would end up in prison if she returned to Belarus, she obtained help from the International Olympic Committee and police protection while at Tokyo-Haneda airport.

Tsimanouskaya, 24, then took refuge for two nights at the Polish embassy in the Japanese capital, before joining Poland, which granted her a humanitarian visa.