The United States said it supports the Belarusian people, who streamed into the streets during the summer in support of the Belarusian opposition and against the results of the Belarusian presidential election. Photo by Yauhen Yerchak/EPA-EFE
Dec. 23 (UPI) -- The outgoing Trump administration on Wednesday blacklisted dozens of Belarusian officials and entities over their involvement in the European country's August presidential election.
Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, won a sixth term in August in an election that Western nations, including the United States, Britain and those in the European Union bloc, rejected for neither being fair nor free.
Following the election commission's declaration that Lukashenko had won, protesters streamed into the streets of Minsk promoting a hardline response that has resulted in thousands of arrests and attracted a staunch backlash from those same Western nations and human rights groups.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned one individual and four entities while the State Department imposed visa restrictions against 39 people the United States holds responsible for undermining democracy in Belarus.
"The Belarusian people deserve free and fair elections," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said via Twitter.
The Treasury said it blacklisted the Central Commission of the Republic of Belarus on Elections and Holding Republican Referenda, the country's election commission, for undermining the election, which "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."
It also sanctioned 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' secret service, for participating in the government crackdown on protesters.
Dmitriy Balaba, the riot police leader of Minsk OMON, was previously sanctioned in early October.
"The Belarusian people continually seek to peacefully exercise their basic democratic rights, and the state repeatedly responds with violent crackdowns," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. "This action, in conjunction with those taken previously by the United States and our international partners, continue to hold accountable the individuals and organization carrying out these unacceptable actions."
Pompeo said the Treasury has sanctioned a total of 25 Belarusians and 13 entities while the State Department has imposed visa restrictions on 63 people for their involvement in undermining democracy in Belarus.
The move came less than a week after the European Union imposed a third round of sanctions against Belarusian authorities and companies over the government's violent repression of demonstrators, opposition politicians and journalists. In total, the bloc has blacklisted 88 people and seven entities.
"The United States continues to support international efforts to independently investigate electoral irregularities in Belarus, the human rights abuses surrounding the election and the crackdown that has followed," Pompeo said in a statement. "We stand with the brave people of Belarus and support their right to free and fair elections."