Belarus threatens retaliation after fresh US sanctions

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has said it may formulate an adequate response after the United States slapped sanctions against four Belarus state-owned enterprises.

­“The Belarusian side reserves the right to take adequate retaliatory actions,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Savinykh told the press on Friday. “We consider the actions of the US Treasury Department to be another missed opportunity to show common sense and abandon the confrontational track in our relations with the US,” the official said.

He also said that the US side’s actions were limited by the obsolete clichés that inevitably lead to a dead end and said that “in light of the continuing financial and budget crisis which is aggravated by the crisis of confidence between US society and the authorities, Washington continues to take measures that primarily hurt first the interests of those US businessmen who are engaged in a profitable cooperation with their Belarusian producers”.

The media reported on Thursday that the United States had imposed new economic sanctions against Belarusian enterprises as a punishment for the Belarusian government’s crackdown on the opposition. The affected enterprises were the Belshina tire factory, the Grodno Azot fertilizer manufacturer, the Grodno Khimvolokno fiber manufacturer, and the Naftan oil refinery, the State Department said. The sanctions forbid any US person or company from having business relations with the aforementioned Belarus producers and will freeze all assets the companies might have which fall under US jurisdiction.

“The sanctions are a response to the continued incarceration of political prisoners, the crackdown on political activists, journalists and civil society representatives,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Earlier this year the US imposed a visa ban on Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and several other state officials, while also ordering a freeze on their assets in the US.

Several European nations also banned top Belarus officials from entry, a move with has subsequently caused routine border related incidents. On Thursday Poland denied entry to the head of the Belarus Union of Music Composers and Lithuania closed its border to a Supreme Court judge and two members of parliament.

Belarusian authorities are acting tough on the political opposition who are claiming that the presidential elections in December 2010 were not held in accordance with democratic norms and should therefore be declared invalid. On the day of the election, thousands of protesters headed by presidential candidates who had lost the race to Lukashenko held a rally in the center of the Belarusian capital Minsk and tried to break into the building housing the elections committee. Law enforcers dispersed the protesters and arrested many of them. Several former presidential candidates later received prison sentences, with some receiving suspended sentences and others being forced to flee the country.

During the summer, the opposition vowed to held silent protests in Belarusian cities every Wednesday. Police systematically broke up the demonstrations and arrest the protesters for violating public order.

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