The United States on Monday imposed a raft of new sanctions against Belarus following the post-election crackdown against the country's opposition, the State Department said Monday.
"The United States announces today measures to respond to the brutal crackdown by President (Alexander) Lukashenko and the government of Belarus in the wake of the presidential election of December 19, 2010," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in a statement. He added that the "disproportionate use of force and initial detentions of hundreds of demonstrators" among other offenses by the Minsk government "oblige the United States and others in the international community to act."
The US measures were announced on the same day that the European Union imposed asset freezes and travel bans against Lukashenko and 157 associates as punishment for the crackdown on the opposition - a move supported by the State Department.
"The United States is closely coordinating its response to the crackdown in Belarus with the European Union and other partners," said Crowley. "In this regard, we welcome today's decision of the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council to impose travel restrictions and an asset freeze, and strengthen its support to civil society".
The regime in Belarus reacted swiftly, vowing to retaliate with "proportionate" but unspecified measures against the 27-nation European bloc.
The sanctions imposed by Washington included revocation of a general license that had temporarily authorized Americans to engage in transactions with two subsidiaries of Belneftekhim, the largest state-owned petroleum and chemical conglomerate in Belarus.
Washington also significantly expanded the list of Belarussian officials subject to travel restrictions and said it was working to impose financial sanctions against unspecified Belarussian citizens and entities.
The US government said it is pressing for the immediate release of all detainees and the dropping of all charges associated with the crackdown.
Washington also is calling for "a halt to the harassment of civil society, independent media and the political opposition, and space for the free expression of political views, the development of a civil society, and freedom of the media," Crowley said.