The United States has imposed new economic sanctions against four major Belarusian companies, in response to the government's incarceration of political prisoners, and harassment of political activists, journalists and civil society representatives.
The December 19th Presidential election in Belarus, which was decried by human rights groups as seriously flawed, resulted in the reelection of Alaksandr Lukashenka, who has held that post since 1994. The massive, non-violent protest that followed resulted in a brutal crackdown by Belarusian authorities. Hundreds of people, including opposition political candidates who had run against Mr. Lukashenka, were arbitrarily detained and physically abused. Since then, the Government of Belarus has continued its crackdown on civil society, free expression, and independent media across the country.
Over 40 people were tried, convicted, and incarcerated for taking part in the protest. On August 12, nine were legally pardoned after they admitted to participating in the protests and pledged not to participate in such activities again. In other words, in order to gain their freedom, they were forced to foreswear their freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, two universal rights recognized by the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
In response to the continued human rights abuses by the Government of Belarus, the United States has imposed economic sanctions on Belarusian state-owned companies and travel restrictions on individual members of the Government. This latest round of sanctions, announced on August 11, targets: the oil refiner Naftan OAO; fertilizer and consumer goods manufacturer Grodno Azot; Grodno Khimvolokno, which manufactures nylon and polyester yarns and fibers; and Belshina, one of Europe’s largest tire manufacturers. All four enterprises are subsidiaries of Belarus’s state-owned petroleum and chemical conglomerate, Belneftekhim.
"These sanctions are not designed to harm the people of Belarus, but rather to deny funds to those responsible for the repression in Belarus following the December 19th  presidential elections," said State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland.
"The United States, in concert with our European partners, will continue to monitor developments in Belarus and to take measures to hold accountable those responsible for the repression of fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. . . . We reiterate our call on the Government of Belarus to release immediately and unconditionally all political prisoners."