Washington, Jun 22 (IANS): The US announced sanctions against Belarusian individuals and entities over alleged human rights abuse and the 23 May Ryanair flight diversion incident.
The Treasury Department said in a statement on Monday that it had designated five entities and 16 individuals, including Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's press secretary and the chairperson of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly, the Belarusian Parliament's upper house, reports Xinhua news agency.
The State Security Committee, the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and their heads are also on the blacklist.
All property and interests of the individuals in the US are blocked, and American persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them, said the statement.
Also on Monday, the European Union (EU) announced new sanctions against 78 individuals and eight entities in Belarus.
Seven of the individuals and one entity had sanctions issued in connection with what the EU believed a forced landing of the Ryanair passenger plane by Minsk and the alleged arrest of a dissident journalist on board.
The Council of the EU said that four rounds of restrictive measures on Belarus now apply to a total of 166 persons and 15 entities.
"The US and its partners will not tolerate continued attacks on democracy and the ceaseless repression of independent voices in Belarus," the Director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, Andrea M. Gacki said in Monday's statement.
"Today's actions, taken on both sides of the Atlantic, hold accountable those who continue to suppress the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people through abuses of human rights, attacks on the free press, and disregard for other fundamental freedoms.
"The recent forced diversion of Ryanair flight 4978 by the Belarusian government is one of many examples of the Lukashenko regime's continued disregard for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Belarusian people in hopes of crushing the pro-democracy movement," she added.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a separate statement that the State Department imposed visa restrictions on 46 Belarusian officials.
Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega were on board a commercial flight between Greece and Lithuania that was rerouted on May 23 to Minsk shortly before it reached Vilnius due to an alleged bomb threat.
No bomb was found, but both were detained.