Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Obama extends US sanctions against Lukashenka

US President Barack Obama has extended by one year the country`s sanctions against Alyaksandr Lukashenka and nine other Belarusians.

"In 2011, the Government of Belarus continued its crackdown against political opposition, civil society, and independent media", Mr. Obama said in a statement issued on June 14. "The government arbitrarily arrested, detained, and imprisoned citizens for criticizing officials or for participating in demonstrations; imprisoned at least one human rights activist on manufactured charges; and prevented independent media from disseminating information and materials. These actions show that the Government of Belarus has taken additional steps backward in the development of democratic governance and respect for human rights".

Mr. Obama said that "the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Belarus and other persons continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States". "Accordingly, the national emergency declared on June 16, 2006, and the measures adopted on that date to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond June 16, 2012", he said.

The visa bans and asset freezes targeting Mr. Lukashenka and nine other Belarusians were approved by Mr. Obama’s predecessor, George Bush.

"The President took this action to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Belarus and other persons to undermine Belarus democratic processes or institutions, to commit human rights abuses related to political repression, including detentions and disappearances, and to engage in public corruption, including by diverting or misusing Belarusian public assets or by misusing public authority", said Mr. Obama.

Apart from Mr. Lukashenka, the US sanctions target his eldest son Viktar Lukashenka, presidential aide for national security since 2005; Lidziya Yarmoshyna, chairperson of the central election commission since 1996; Viktar Halavanaw, who was minister of justice in 2006; Viktar Sheyman, the then state secretary of the Security Council who is currently special presidential aide; Dzmitry Pawlichenka, the then chief of the Special Rapid Response Unit (SOBR) of the interior ministry; Stsyapan Sukharenka, the then chief of the Committee for State Security (KGB); Alyaksandr Zimowski, the then chairperson of the Belarusian State Television and Radio Company; and Natallya Pyatkevich, the then first deputy head of the Presidential Administration who is currently presidential aide.