U.S. extends sanctions on Belarus

June 15, 2012 at 12:36 PM

WASHINGTON, June 15 (UPI) -- The White House announced it was extending a national emergency with respect to Belarus because the government there was repressive.

The United States in 2006 issued a national emergency that placed sanctions on Belarusian authorities in for undermining democratic processes in the country.

The White House, in a decision to renew that measure, took note of a 2011 crackdown on political opposition and restrictions on the freedom of press.

"These actions show that the government of Belarus has taken additional steps backward in the development of democratic governance and respect for human rights," the declaration read.

The move follows a decision by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to issue a national amnesty to mark the country's July 3 Independence Day. He said there was nothing political about his offer.

"It's a message to the public and an incentive for the convicts," he was quoted by Russia's state-run news service RIA Novosti as saying.

The country's interior minister said an estimated 2,600 prisoners would be released under the amnesty program.

Lukashenko's political opponents were imprisoned following December 2010 elections. Belarusian officials in April released former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov and his campaign director Dmitry Bondarenko, who had been arrested following the elections.

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