BY ARSHAND MOHAMMED AND JONATHAN LANDAY
The United States is considering imposing sanctions on seven Belarusians it believes were involved in falsifying the Aug. 9 election and in violence against peaceful protesters, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Tuesday.
“We’ve got a group of seven people that we are working with Treasury for the evidentiary package” to impose sanctions, the official told Reuters.
“It is a minimal effort to … not just name and shame but to show that when people both steal elections and commit violence against peaceful protesters exercising fundamental freedoms of assembly and speech that there needs to be some accountability,” the official said.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States could consider imposing sanctions on Russia if it were to intervene overtly with force in Belarus, where protests erupted after an Aug. 9 election that the opposition says was rigged to prolong President Alexander Lukashenko’s 26-year rule.
Lukashenko denies electoral fraud and has shown no sign of backing down despite the threat of Western sanctions. The official did not name the seven Belarusians and noted that Lukashenko is already under U.S. sanctions.
The official said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun made it clear in meetings in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other top officials last week “that there would be consequences in the U.S.-Russian relationship were the Russians to intervene overtly with force in Belarus.”
Biegun said this would be the case whoever wins the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election because “the bipartisan sentiment in Congress will set the guardrails and the possibilities for the U.S.-Russian relationship,” the official said.