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US, EU imposed new sanctions against Belarus

01.02.2011 9294

Almaty. February 1. Kazakhstan Today - The US and the European Union have imposed new sanctions against Belarus's leadership as punishment for a post-election crackdown on the opposition, the agency reports.

The EU reinstated a travel ban on President Alexander Lukashenko and froze his assets, and the US imposed stricter financial controls and widened its travel bans on senior officials, BBC reported.

The foreign ministry threatened the EU with retaliation over the sanctions.

Mr Lukashenko was re-elected in a disputed vote in December, and launched a crackdown on dissent afterwards.

More than 600 people were detained, including seven of the election candidates, after protests against what international monitors said was a rigged vote.

On Monday, the EU confirmed it had reinstated a travel ban on Mr Lukashenko, and widened the ban to include 157 of his associates. The new list also included two of Lukashenko's sons, Viktor and Dmitry, Defence Minister Yury Zhadobin and the head of the country's secret police, Vadim Zaitsev, AFP informed.

The EU had originally banned Belarusian leader in 2006 after the last presidential election, but suspended the ban two years later in an attempt to encourage reforms.

The US state department later said it was toughening its sanctions "to respond to the brutal crackdown by President Lukashenko".

Reuters news agency reported that the US measures included revoking temporary authorisation for business deals with two subsidiaries of Belneftekhim, the country's largest state-owned petroleum and chemical conglomerate.

In a statement released before the US announcement, Belarus's foreign ministry accused the EU of holding a "biased and selective" interpretation of December's election.

Although Belarus freed at the weekend a second opposition candidate who was among hundreds of protesters jailed for crying foul after a presidential election, the move was not enough to earn it a reprieve from the West, AFP reported.

Lukashenko, in power for 16 years, was re-elected with 80 percent of the vote in an election denounced as fraudulent by the opposition and that saw rival candidates arrested. Three such figures are still behind bars.

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