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US Considers Additional Sanctions Against Belarus

The United States is considering a range of sanctions against the government of Belarus, following an election Sunday critics say was seriously flawed. The State Department's David Kramer listed some of the measures in a speech Tuesday at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

He says the increasingly repressive measures of the Belarusian government leading up to and following Sunday's election, lived up to his worst expectations. "Dramatically increased detentions, harassment, seizures as the election approached, were designed to create the climate of intimidation and fear among opposition candidates and non-partisan activists, as well as among voters. And all this reflected the authority's disdain for a free media and free public discourse and the ability of voters in Belarus to express themselves in a free manner," he said.

He said the United States is closely working with its European allies to take additional measures against individuals responsible for violations of international standards. "Specifically, we will look to expand travel restrictions on additional individuals responsible for fraud and human rights abuses. And I have with me a list of names that we are taking a look at, for people we would actually put on such a list. And we are consulting very closely with our European allies on that," he said.

He added that U.S. and EU authorities are also planning to target assets of key people in Minsk, to make them, in his words, "pay a price for the abuses that they have engaged in."

Columbia University Russia expert Robert Legvold says the crucial third partner, Moscow, should also get involved. "It is a regime that is very difficult to influence with sticks alone. Carrots and sticks are not going to be effective unless the Russians are willing to cooperate. And the Russians have been going in the other direction," he said.

This concern was acknowledged by the U.S. official. "Sanctions done by the United States, alone, won't have much impact. And I don't want to sit here and pretend that steps that we take unilaterally will bring the regime to its knees," Kramer said.

Kramer said U.S. officials have discussed Belarus with Russian officials. He added that he has been encouraged by recent conversations about Belarus he has had with other European officials.

Meanwhile, he said upcoming elections in Ukraine are vastly different from those in Belarus. Despite some lingering problems, he said Ukraine is a shining example of a developing democracy in the region, and said the U.S. government would be willing to work with whichever government Ukrainian voters freely and fairly choose.