The United States has announced measures in response to the brutal crackdown by President Alexander Lukashenko and the Government of Belarus in the wake of the presidential election of December 19, 2010.
The use of force and initial detention of approximately 700 demonstrators; charging of five opposition presidential candidates, journalists and representatives of civil society; ongoing raids against civil society, media and political parties; closure of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe office in Minsk; and a flawed vote count in the recent Presidential election all represent major steps backward for the country.
These actions by the Belarus government oblige the United States and others in the international community to act. The U.S. is revoking the general license that had authorized U.S. persons to do business with two Belarusian companies. The U.S. is significantly expanding the list of Belarusian officials and their family members subject to travel restrictions.
The U.S. is working to impose financial sanctions against additional Belarusian individuals and entities. The U.S. government will continuously review these policies and coordinate them with the European Union in response to actions by the Belarus Government.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon, who appeared recently before the United States Senate’s Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, made very clear that these measures are not aimed at the Belarusian people.
"We are simultaneously planning to increase our support for democratic actors and the victims of repression," Assistant Secretary Gordon said. "Last year, the United States provided $11 million in assistance towards supporting civil society, access to information and political competition, and providing opportunities for more interaction between Belarusian citizens and the outside world.
"In response to recent events, we will increase such assistance by nearly 30 percent this year. Our assistance includes support for human rights advocates, trade unions, youth and environment groups, business associations, and think tanks. We continue to support independent newspapers, websites, and electronic media operating in the country and broadcasting from Belarus’s neighbors.
"Our commitment to enhancing democracy and respect for human rights in Belarus is long-term and will not weaken," Assistant Secretary Gordon concluded. "We must maintain a resolute stance, both with respect to the [Belarus] government and in support of those seeking a democratic Belarus."