Bush Imposes Financial Sanctions on Top Belarusian Officials

Cites human rights abuses, assaults on democracy, corruption as justification

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko during his inauguration in April (cAP/WWP)

Washington -- President Bush has imposed targeted financial sanctions on Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and nine other top officials in his government who share responsibility for undermining democratic processes or institutions in the former Soviet republic. The sanctions essentially freeze any assets Lukashenko and his closest associates have in the United States and bars U.S. citizens from doing business with them.

A White House statement released June 19 announcing the sanctions cited as justification the government's human rights abuses, corruption and assaults on democracy, as well as the "fraudulent" presidential election in March and post-election repression of the opposition. (See related article.)

"These sanctions, imposed in coordination with targeted financial sanctions adopted by the European Union, indicate the international community's intention to hold to account those responsible for abuses in Belarus," the White House said.

In a separate letter to Congress concerning the executive order freezing assets, Bush also cited "the disappearances of four regime critics in 1999 and 2000, which the authorities have failed to investigate seriously despite credible information linking top government officials to these acts."

"There is simply no place in a Europe whole and free for a regime of this kind," Bush said.

The letter also states that corruption among top Belarusian officials 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 activities."

On May 15, Bush banned travel to the United States by Lukashenko and those associated with his regime. (See related article.)

Three days later, the Council of the European Union froze all funds and assets of 36 Belarusian officials "responsible for the violations of international electoral standards and the crackdown on civil society and the democratic opposition" related to the March 19 presidential elections. These measures were adopted in addition to travel restrictions against Lukashenko and other Belarusian officials imposed by the council on April 10.

Bush's June 19 executive order prohibits U.S. companies and individuals from engaging in any transactions with the targeted persons.

Those named in addition to Lukashenko include not only such figures as the chairman of the Belarusian KGB and the minister of internal affairs, but also the head of the Belarusian State Television and Radio Company and the head of the Central Commission for Elections and National Referendums.

"The U.S. Government will continue to gather and review information regarding possible additional targets," the White House statement said.