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U.S. sanctions Belarus president, more Russian officials

The Treasury Department on Tuesday announced additional sanctions targeting the president of Belarus, his wife and a number of Russian officials, the latest in a package of penalties intended to punish the Kremlin and its allies for Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

“We are taking action against this autocratic attack on democracy,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on the U.S. sanctions. “The United States will continue to promote accountability for those who support, enable, and perpetrate human rights abuses in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and elsewhere.”

All property and interests in property owned by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko or his wife are now blocked in the U.S., the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced. Lukashenko was first sanctioned in 2006 by then-President George W. Bush for engaging in “political corruption” and committing “human rights abuses related to political repression.”

The State Department also announced that Lukashenko, his wife and their children are barred from entry to the U.S.

Lukashenko, a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, allowed Russian troops to enter his country for military exercises then attack neighboring Ukraine from Belarusian soil. Lukashenko has also offered hospitals to treat wounded Russians and morgues to bury their dead.

Last month, Belarus held a referendum to alter the country’s constitution and end its status as a nuclear-free zone, opening the possibility of Russian nuclear weapons being deployed there. The U.S. closed its embassy in Belarus the day after the referendum was introduced.

Eleven senior Russian officials, including several high-ranking officials in the Russian Ministry of Defense, were also barred from entry to the U.S. and had property blocked, along with their families. Viktor Zolotov, the head of the National Guard of Russia, was included for his alleged role in punishing Russian civilians who have protested the Russian war in Ukraine and suppressing dissent in occupied areas of Ukraine.

The State Department also introduced a new visa restriction policy to the Immigration and Nationality Act, barring current and former Russian government officials and their families from entry to the U.S. Thirty-eight individuals “believed to be involved in suppressing dissent” in Russia and their families are immediately affected by this visa ban, the State Department said.

Other visa restrictions were announced against officers from Russia’s Federal Security Service in Crimea accused of torture; Russian officials involved in attacks on Chechen dissidents in Europe; and Belarusians engaged in political corruption.

“Today’s designations demonstrate the United States will continue to impose concrete and significant consequences for those who engage in corruption or are connected to gross violations of human rights,” Office of Foreign Assets Control Director Andrea Gacki said in a statement. “We condemn Russia’s attacks on humanitarian corridors in Ukraine and call on Russia to cease its unprovoked and brutal war against Ukraine.”

On Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced it would be sanctioning Biden, Blinken and a number of other U.S. officials “on a basis of reciprocity.” Also included in the sanctions are Biden’s son, Hunter, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“I would first note that President Biden is a ‘junior,’ so they may have sanctioned his dad — may he rest in peace,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who was also included in the sanctions, joked on Tuesday.

“None of us are planning tourist trips to Russia, none of us have bank accounts that we won’t be able to access, so we will forge ahead,” Psaki said.

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