The United States announces today measures to respond to the brutal crackdown by President Lukashenka and the Government of Belarus in the wake of the presidential election of December 19, 2010. The disproportionate use of force and initial detentions of hundreds of demonstrators; charging of five opposition presidential candidates; ongoing raids against civil society, media and political parties; the closure of the OSCE’s office in Minsk; and a flawed vote count all represent major steps backwards for the country. These actions oblige the United States and others in the international community to act. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said in their joint statement of December 23, “the people of Belarus deserve better.”
In response to the continuing crackdown, the United States is undertaking the following steps:
– The United States is revoking the general license that had temporarily authorized U.S. persons to engage in otherwise prohibited transactions with Lakokraska OAO and Polotsk Steklovolokno OAO, two blocked subsidiaries of Belarus’s largest state-owned petroleum and chemical conglomerate, Belneftekhim. All transactions with Belneftekhim and its subsidiaries are now blocked pursuant to Executive Order 13405.
– The United States is significantly expanding the list of Belarusian officials subject to travel restrictions. We will enforce those restrictions to prevent the entry into the United States of individuals (and their family members) who are responsible for actions or policies related to the crackdown that began December 19.
– The United States is working to impose financial sanctions against additional Belarusian individuals and/or entities pursuant to Executive Order 13405. The criteria for inclusion on these lists are participation in actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions, or responsibility for human rights abuses related to political repression.
The United States continues to seek the immediate release of all detainees and the dropping of all charges associated with the crackdown; a halt to the harassment of civil society, independent media and the political opposition; and space for the free expression of political views, the development of a civil society, and freedom of the media. We will review and adjust our policies based on subsequent actions by the Government of Belarus.
These measures are not aimed at the Belarusian people. The United States is planning to expand this year by at least 30 percent its assistance to Belarusian civil society, independent media and democratic political parties, including for activities which increase Belarusians’ contact with open societies.
The United States is closely coordinating its response to the crackdown in Belarus with the European Union and other partners. In this regard, we welcome today’s decision of the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council to impose travel restrictions and an asset freeze, and strengthen its support to civil society.