US Extends Sanctions Against Belarus

Posted June 14th, 2011 at 3:30 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

U.S. President Barack Obama has extended sanctions on Belarus for what he called the Minsk government's continued actions against the development of democratic governance, and for its human rights violations.

In a decree issued Tuesday, Mr. Obama accused Belarus' government of using “harsh violence” against protesters and arresting opposition leaders. He said the country's independent media and civil society groups have faced “continuing repression” since disputed elections in December.

Mr. Obama's action kept in force U.S. sanctions against Belarus that were first invoked in 2006 .

Earlier Tuesday, President Alexander Lukashenko vowed to suppress any form of dissent. Mr. Lukashenko's government has cracked down on all political and economic dissent since a public uprising against his re-election in a ballot that many observers said was deeply flawed.

On Tuesday, journalist Andrzei Pochobut, a leader of the ethnic-Polish minority community in Belarus, went on trial on charges of slandering and insulting President Lukashenko. If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison.

Pochobut, who was arrested in April, is a correspondent for the prominent daily Gazeta Wyborcza in Poland, where his name is spelled Poczobut. Human-rights groups and his Polish employer have campaigned for his release.

On the Belarus side of the border with Poland, residents and travelers have protested against tough economic measures Mr. Lukashenko recently enacted, effectively barring Belarus nationals from bringing cigarettes and other goods into Poland for sale there, where domestic prices are considerably higher.

Belarus security forces dispersed more than 100 motorists who were trying to block a border crossing into Poland Monday. Police said they arrested at least 14 people for disrupting public order, and reports from the scene said authorities sprayed tear gas on the demonstrators.

Mr. Lukashenko has denounced citizens of his country who try to sell goods in Poland as “profiteers” and speculators. Those who engage in such trade say they can find no other way to eke out a living during the current economic hard times in Belarus.