Sen. Dick Durbin released the following statement:
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement today after the State Department announced new sanctions against Belarus and the regime of President Alexander Lukashenka:
"I applaud the new, targeted, sanctions and travel restrictions against Lukashenka and those helping to prop up his dictatorship," Durbin said. "Lukashenka should be under no illusions - these sanctions are only the first step. Until all political prisoners are unconditionally released, additional pressure will brought to bear against his regime. If Belarus expects to be part of the world community and expects an improvement of relations with the West, basic human rights and democratic standards must be respected."
Durbin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was in Belarus last month after Lukashenka claimed a fourth term as president. The announcement was followed by violent confrontations in the capital, Minsk. Opposition presidential candidates and protesters were arrested, beaten and jailed. Many are facing considerable jail time and have had no access to their families or lawyers. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) described the election as seriously flawed and criticized the vote count and violent backlash against opposition candidates. Both the White House and the U.S. State Department strongly condemned the election process and the subsequent crackdown on opposition leaders.
While in Minsk, Durbin met with opposition leaders, human rights activists and families of jailed activists and candidates. He also called for the immediate release of those jailed since December's elections.