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Belarus opposition leader calls for increased pressure on government in U.S. visit

The United States committed to pressuring Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to cooperate in an investigation into the arrest of an exiled journalist in meetings with opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskya. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
The United States committed to pressuring Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to cooperate in an investigation into the arrest of an exiled journalist in meetings with opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskya. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

July 20 (UPI) -- Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskya called for the United States to increase pressure on President Alexander Lukashenko's government during a trip to Washington, D.C.

Tsikhanouskya met with national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Tuesday who pledged the Biden administration will continue to push for an investigation into the hijacking of a civilian plane by the Belarusian government to arrest an opposition journalist.

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Sullivan expressed U.S. support for "the struggle for democracy and human rights" in Belarus and commitment to hold Lukashenko accountable for his government's actions.

"Mr. Sullivan reiterated the Biden administration's demand that the Lukashenka regime allow a credible international investigation into the events of May 23, immediately release all political prisoners, and enter into a comprehensive genuine political dialogue with the leaders of the democratic opposition and civil society groups that leads to the conduct of free and fair presidential elections under [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] observation," NSC representative Emily Horne said.

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Tsikhanouskaya tweeted after the meeting that she was thankful for the United States' "principled position on the crisis in Belarus."

"I called for enhancing civil society aid and supporting the demand of Belarusians for a new free and fair presidential election," she wrote.

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Last month, the U.S. Treasury Department froze the U.S. assets of 16 individuals and five entities in response to the Lukashenko regime's "escalating violence and repression" after exiled journalist Roman Protasevich was detained after Lukashenko gave the order for his Ryanair flight, which was en route from Athens to Vilnius, to land at Minsk.

Tsikhanouskya also met with a group of U.S. senators where she tweeted that she "raised the issue of denial of financial support to the regime in Belarus" and concern about the regime's "assault on freedom of religion."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland also met with Tsikhanouskaya on Monday.

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State Department spokesman Ned Price said they discussed "the need for the ongoing Lukashenka regime crackdown to end."

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"They discussed the ongoing repression, the crackdown by the Lukashenko regime, and the steps that we have said and much of the international community has said that the Lukashenko regime must take," Price said in a press briefing Monday.

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