The U.S. departments of Treasury and State on Wednesday announced sanctions and visa restrictions on dozens of Belarusian citizens and several entities for their alleged roles in what the U.S. calls a fraudulent Aug. 9 election and the violent crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters that followed.
 
“The election included a myriad of irregularities that made it neither free nor fair, including barring opposition candidates, denying access to poll observers, and certifying inaccurate vote tallies,” the Treasury Department said in a news release.
 
Treasury officials accused leaders of the Central Commission of the Republic of Belarus on Elections and Holding Republican Referenda — led by Chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshina, Deputy Chairperson Vadzim Ipatau, and Secretary Alena Dmukhayla — of fraud. All three had already been sanctioned Oct. 2. 
 
The U.S. department also says Deputy Minister of the Interior and Chief of the Criminal Police Henadz Arkadzievich Kazakevich “was responsible for the actions of the Criminal Police in their role of carrying out previously sanctioned Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s policy of violently cracking down on pro-democracy protests in Belarus.”
 
The Minsk Special Purpose Police Unit, the Main Internal Affairs Directorate of the Minsk City Executive Committee, and KGB Alpha, an elite unit of Belarus’s secret services, are all being sanctioned for their roles in the violent crackdowns, Treasury said.
 
“The Belarusian people continually seek to peacefully exercise their basic democratic rights, and the state repeatedly responds with violent crackdowns,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin in a press release. “This action, in conjunction with those taken previously by the United States and our international partners, continue to hold accountable the individuals and organizations carrying out these unacceptable actions.”
 
After Treasury’s announcement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced more sanctions via Twitter.
 
“This morning, I imposed visa restrictions on 39 individuals and @USTreasury sanctioned additional officials and entities for their roles in the fraudulent August 9th election and the violent crackdown in Belarus. The Belarusian people deserve free and fair elections.”
 
Earlier this month, Belarusian security forces detained dozens of people across the country as street protests calling on authoritarian ruler Alexander Lukashenko to resign continued.
 
Demonstrators have gathered in Minsk and other Belarusian cities in nearly continuous protests since the disputed presidential election in August.
 
The Aug. 9 vote gave Lukashenko a sixth presidential term, but the opposition believes candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was the real winner of the election and is calling for the strongman’s resignation, the release of all political prisoners, and a new election.
 
Today’s sanctions come just six days after the European Union unveiled fresh sanctions against dozens of Belarusians, including Deputy Prime Minister Anatoli Sivak, and the head of state television.

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