Europe and U.S. Consider Sanctions Against Officials in Belarus


MOSCOW, March 28 - The European Union and the United States are considering personal sanctions against more than 40 officials and state journalists in Belarus for their roles in election rigging and crackdowns on civil society there, according to Western diplomats and government officials.

A list of officials under consideration for sanctions in Europe includes not only President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko and his top staff but extends to government ministers and security officials, as well as prosecutors and judges involved in trying anti-government demonstrators and sentencing them to jail.

The European Union and the United States announced an intention to pursue punitive sanctions immediately after Mr. Lukashenko's landslide re-election victory on March 19, which the West and the opposition have denounced as a sham.

The draft list of officials, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, reflects the work of diplomats in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, in the days since the election, and after crackdowns against peaceful protesters on March 24 and 25. It includes 43 officials or state journalists by name, and four regional election officials by position.

"We have drawn up a list, as the European Union heads of mission, and sent it to Brussels," a Western ambassador in Minsk said by telephone today, referring the European Union's offices in Belgium.

The exact form European sanctions might take have not been determined and must be agreed upon by the entire union, but is likely to include bans on the officials' travel to the 25 European Union nations, the ambassador said. Other steps might be taken as well, including asset freezes.

The ambassador spoke anonymously because deliberations about which Belarussian officials should face sanctions are confidential. He declined to discuss any officials by name.

The list is expected to be reviewed, and perhaps adopted, when the foreign ministers from the union meet in Luxembourg on April 10.

American and European officials said that although some names will probably be removed and others added, the speed of the list's creation and the collaboration between Washington and European governments reflects a resolve to try to apply pressure to Mr. Lukashenko's circle.

The United States has already banned travel on several officials, and plans to add more. "We are thinking through the right people to target, and are doing this in very close contact with the European Union," David J. Kramer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, said by telephone.

He added that the list may grow: "There may be other names out there we want to put on."

Unlike the European Union, which publicizes the names of people under sanctions, the United States is forbidden to disclose such names. But the United States has already brought sanctions against several officials in Minsk, and is steadily adding more, Mr. Kramer said.

Before the election, he said, the number of officials was "fewer than a dozen, and it's going to go up significantly. It's going up pretty much on a daily basis."

Mr. Lukashenko, whose inauguration had been scheduled for Friday but was postponed without explanation today, is often referred to as Europe's only remaining dictator.

He runs Belarus, a nation of 10 million along Russia's northwest border, like a Soviet holdout, where Lenin is officially revered and the preponderance of the economy is under is under state control. He is widely accused of vote rigging, corruption and Soviet-style repression.

He has been largely out of the public eye since March 20, when, anticipating the fresh round of Western sanctions, he said he was undeterred by Western threats. His spokesman, Pavel N. Lyogky, echoed Mr. Lukashenko today.

Any new sanctions, Mr. Lyogky said in a telephone interview, "are simply funny. They first of all are groundless, and secondly they will not bring about any expected effect."

In spite of the general consensus in the West to apply pressure against Belarussian authorities, one potential point of contention is what action, if any, to take against prominent government journalists in Belarus.

Washington has been more willing to try punishing the journalists, which it regards as K.G.B. officers, Western officials said, while European countries are concerned that limits against Belarussian journalists could lead to fresh restrictions against Western news gathering in Belarus.

The names of 14 journalists are on the draft list, labeled as "key figures in the propaganda, distortion of facts and attacks on the democracies and their representatives in Belarus."

The list also includes Aleksandr M. Radkov, the education minister, for "expulsions of students and restrictions on their travel" and Nikolia I. Charhinyets, a member of Parliament, for "liquidation of the Writers' Union."

For Stepan N. Sukhorenko, the chairman of Belarus's K.G.B., the reason listed is "self-explanatory. The main repressive organ of the regime."