By Samuel Rubenfeld
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, who won a disputed election in December, is about to be sanctioned by the European Union, diplomats told the BBC.
Lukashenko, as well as 160 of his officials "involved in repression," would face a travel ban and have their assets frozen when the measure is adopted on Monday, the diplomatic sources said.
To that end, William Hague and Guido Westerwelle, the foreign ministers of the U.K. and Germany respectively, jointly call for action against Lukashenko in a new op-ed piece to be published in Friday's Wall Street Journal Europe.
"There is a serious crisis in the European neighborhood. We must act," they wrote. "We cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening today in a fellow European country. President Lukashenko has made his choice and we have no choice but to respond accordingly."
This would be in addition to sanctions passed against him in 2006 after his last re-election, some of which remain in place.
The U.S may join the E.U. in sanctioning Belarus. A State Department official told a Senate panel Thursday that it is outlining what actions it will take: Among them could be a reinstatement of sanctions against the state-controlled oil and chemical company, Belneftekhim, as well as funding independent media.
Lukashenko, for his part, dismissed the possible sanctions against him.
"You have frightened me with sanctions, by taking away visas - well the Lord take you!" Lukashenko said to the Belapan news agency. "I have lived with this visa limit for 10 years. So far, I'm alive and well."
After the election, Belarusian police arrested scores of protesters, including seven of Lukashenko's rival candidates. They may go on trial as soon as next month for allegedly instigating mass unrest, which carries a 15-year jail sentence, according to a Reuters report.
"Why are you sitting in a detention cell? Just give three honest answers to three questions and you can go home to your children. Lukashenko is not bloodthirsty," Lukashenko was quoted by Reuters as saying, referring to the detainees.