June 21 (UPI) -- The United States joined Britain, the European Union and Canada Monday in a coordinated move to levy sanctions against key individuals and organizations associated with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
U.S. Treasury Department announced it has frozen the U.S. assets of 16 individuals and five entities in response to the Lukashenko regime's "escalating violence and repression."
The Treasury cited Belarus' "reckless forced diversion" of a commercial Ryanair flight last month and the subsequent arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich and his companion, Sofia Sapega, who were aboard the flight.
Among those targeted were two close associates of Lukashenko -- press secretary Natallia Mikalaeuna Eismant and Natallia Ivanauna Kachanava, chairwoman of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly, the Belarusian Parliament's upper house.
Eismant, officials said, manages Lukashenko's public image in the press and on social media and is known as one of his closest associates.
The press secretary "created and pushed a narrative that labeled Belarusians protesting the fraudulent August 9, 2020, presidential election as proponents of chaos and disorder, while labeling Lukashenko as the solution to end the political chaos, portraying him as a champion of discipline and stability, and enabling the violence perpetrated against demonstrators," according to the statement.
In addition, the State Department announced it had imposed visa restrictions on 46 Belarusian officials "for their involvement in undermining or injuring institutions in Belarus, making these individuals generally ineligible for entry into the United States."
The Biden administration's moves came in coordination with a series of new sanctions against Belarus issued by other Western nations.
In a joint statement issued by the U.S., Canadian, British and EU governments, each said they were united in their "deep concern regarding the Lukashenko regime's continuing attacks on human rights, fundamental freedoms, and international law."
They called on the regime to "cooperate fully with international investigations" into the Ryanair incident and to release all political prisoners.