By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The United States has imposed sanctions on Belarusian police units and a senior security official in Minsk over their violent crackdown on mass demonstrations against the contested reelection of strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on December 23 denounced what he said were ongoing “efforts to undermine Belarusian democracy.”
“We stand with the brave people of Belarus and support their right to free and fair elections,” Pompeo said.
In announcing the sanctions on December 23, the Treasury Department said it will freeze any U.S. assets and prohibit any transactions with Belarusian First Deputy Interior Minister Henadz Kazakevich.
Kazakevich had appeared in a video in October threatening to use lethal force against those demonstrating against official results of Belarus’s August presidential election — a vote in which Lukashenka was declared the winner of a sixth term.
The demonstrators have rejected the results, saying they were rigged in Lukashenka’s favor.
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets for months, declaring that opposition candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya was the real winner.
The Treasury Department on December 23 also imposed sanctions on three security bodies involved in the crackdown.
They include the Minsk Special Purpose Police Unit (OMON), the General Directorate of Internal Affairs of the Minsk City Executive Committee, and the Minsk-based KGB “Alpha Unit.”
The United States previously imposed sanctions on individual election officials accused of rigging the August vote.
But the expanded sanctions announced by Washington on December 23 also included the Belarusian Central Election Commission.
Washington has had sanctions in place since 2006 on Lukashenka over a previous crackdown against those protesting his disputed reelection.
The European Union has also imposed fresh measures against Lukashenka and one of his sons, Viktar, over the latest violence, including a freeze on their assets and travel visa bans.