The U.S. has imposed financial sanctions on Belarusian President Alexsander Lukashenko and other top officials in his government. These individuals share responsibility for undermining the democratic process in Belarus. The sanctions essentially freeze any assets Mr. Lukashenko and his closest associates have in the United States or held by U.S. persons.
The sanctions also bar U.S. citizens from doing business with them. The sanctions are a response to the March 2006 fraudulent presidential elections in Belarus, but the long dictatorial track record of the Lukashenko regime also plays a role. According to official results, Mr. Lukashenko received over eighty percent of the vote and opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich won a mere six percent. In protest, thousands of opposition supporters led a series of demonstrations in Minsk, the capital. Police forcibly broke up the rallies and arrested hundreds of protesters, including, opposition leader Alexander Kozulin, who remains in jail.
Another reason for sanctions on Belarusian officials is the unsolved disappearance of several government critics. Among those missing are Victor Gonchar, a leader of the democratic opposition, and pro-democracy businessman Anatoly Krasovsky, who vanished in 1999. Dmitry Zavadsky was a well-known television journalist. He went missing in 2000 after he reported that Belarusian authorities may have aided Chechen separatists. International investigations have concluded there is credible information that these men were murdered by Belarusian authorities.
In imposing the sanctions, President George W. Bush said in a written statement that corruption is also a serious problem among top Belarusian officials. Corruption has reached such levels, said Mr. Bush, that it threatens "important United States interests globally, including ensuring security and stability, the rule of law, and core democratic values, advancing prosperity and creating a level playing field for lawful business activity."
The U.S. will continue to gather information regarding possible additional sanctions on Belarusian officials. "There is simply no place in a Europe whole and free," said President Bush, "for a regime of this kind."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.