Oct. 13 (UPI) -- The foreign ministers of the European Union have agreed to impose sanctions against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and other high-ranking officials as the country's security forces have been permitted to use lethal force against protesters.
The EU adopted a resolution Monday stating it "stands ready" to target the president after declaring his August election to a sixth term as "neither free nor fair" and condemning his government's repressive response to protests.
The governmental body had already made the proclamation against the Aug. 9 election in the days after the results were announced and have imposed travel bans and asset freezes against 40 people it sees responsible for the election but said Monday in the resolution that it will add Lukashenko and other entities and high-ranking officials to the list of those subject to "restrictive measures."
"Today, ministers reconfirmed that Mr. Lukashenko lacks any democratic legitimacy and gave their political green light to start preparing the next sanctions package, which will include Lukashenko himself," EU High Representative Josep Borrell said during a press conference on Monday.
The foreign ministers also agreed to scale down cooperation with Belarusian central-level authorities, increase support to the Belarusian people and civil society and recalculate bilateral financial assistance to the country, among other moves.
"The EU stands with the Belarusian people and has immediately made available additional financial resources for victims of violence, civil society organizations and independent media," it said.
The EU is calling on the Lukashenko regime to participate in negotiations on a democratic transition of power following the recent election that has been widely discredited and the subsequent protests that have been met with force.
Protesters have taken to the streets in the capital Minsk every weekend since the election and the government has been accused of confronting it with a violent crackdown.
On Sunday, protester rallies were confronted with stun grenades, water cannons and police batons.
Gennady Kazakevich, first deputy of the interior ministry, said in a video statement Monday that the protesters "had become organized and extremely radical" and that security forces have been permitted to use lethal force against them.
"We're confronted not just by aggression, but by groups of militants, radicals, anarchists and football hooligans," he said. "On behalf of the interior ministry, I say that we will not leave the streets and guarantee the law in the country. Law enforcement personnel and interior troops will use special equipment and lethal weapons if need be."