Today, the U.S. State Department announced the resumption of previously frozen sanctions against nine major Belarusian enterprises controlled by the Alexander Lukashenko regime. This was announced by Spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State at a regular press briefing on Wednesday, 31 March.
“The State Department is unable to recommend another extension [of the sanctions relief – Ed.]. The current extension ends on 26 April,” said the U.S. diplomat. The list includes such industrial giants as Belneftekhim, Belneftekhim USA, Naftan, Belarusian Oil Trading House, Belshina, Grodno Azot, Grodnokhimvolokno, OAO Lakofarba, OAO Polotsk-Shklovalokno. The sanctions will take effect exactly a week later, on 7 April.
This means that U.S. businesses and citizens are prohibited from having economic and financial relationships with these organizations, and all of their property and accounts located in the U.S. will be frozen. In addition, many countries and companies refuse to work with companies that are under U.S. sanctions.
— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) March 24, 2021
The reason for the resumption of sanctions was the deteriorating human rights situation and political prisoners in Belarus [more than 300 people were declared political prisoners as of 31 March – Ed.].
The U.S. continues to call for the release of all political prisoners in Belarus. “The U.S. position is unequivocal – all political prisoners must be released. We stand with Belarusians in their struggle for freedom,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price stated on Twitter on 25 March, ahead of a planned opposition Freedom Day demonstrations in Belarus, which didn’t take place.
Washington imposed sanctions on a number of Belarusian petrochemical companies after the 2006 presidential elections, citing human rights violations. In October 2015, the sanctions were suspended, which was facilitated by the release of political prisoners. Subsequently, this decision was repeatedly extended. On October 22, 2019, the suspension of sanctions was extended until April 26, 2021.