Promoting Accountability for Governments of Russia & Belarus

Promoting Accountability for Human Rights Abuses Perpetrated by the Governments of Russia and Belarus

Washington, DC (STL.News) Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken released the following statement:

The United States, with support from Allies and partners, is taking action to promote accountability for the Russian and Belarusian governments’ human rights abuses and violations within and outside their borders.  In doing so, we reiterate our condemnation of President Putin’s premeditated, unjustified, and unprovoked war against Ukraine, as well as the Lukashenka regime’s support and facilitation of the Russian Federation’s invasion.  President Putin’s military campaign against Ukraine has caused extensive and needless suffering, many hundreds and likely thousands of civilian casualties, including children, and growing reports of human rights abuses and violations.

At the same time, the Russian government has intensified a crackdown against its own citizens’ freedom of expression, including for members of the press, as well as freedom of association and peaceful assembly.  Today in Russia, those who provide factual reporting on the invasion or criticize Putin face criminal charges.  Similarly, the Lukashenka regime in Belarus continues its violent repression against civil society, anti-war protestors, the democratic opposition, independent media, and ordinary Belarusians.

In response, the Department of State is announcing a series of actions to promote accountability for the Russian Federation’s and Government of Belarus’s human rights abuses and violations. These include:

  • Designation of Alyaksandr Lukashenka pursuant to Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2021.  Lukashenka was publicly designated for his involvement in gross violations of human rights and significant corruption.  Under this authority, Lukashenka and Lukashenka’s immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States, to include his wife, Galina Lukashenka, his adult sons, Viktar Lukashenka and Dzmitry Lukashenka, and his minor son.
  • Designation of 11 senior Russian defense officials by the Department of State pursuant to E.O. 14024.  This includes Viktor Zolotov, the Head of the National Guard of Russia.  Under Zolotov’s leadership, the National Guard has cracked down on Russian citizens who have taken to the streets to protest their government’s brutal campaign in Ukraine.  In addition, Zolotov’s troops are responsible for suppressing dissent in occupied areas of Ukraine.  More broadly, the designation of these 11 senior Russian defense leaders continues our imposition of severe costs on Russia’s Ministry of Defense as it pursues its brutal military invasion of Ukraine, which has led to unnecessary casualties and suffering, including the deaths of children. List here: https://www.state.gov/u-s-announces-sanctions-on-key-members-of-russias-defense-enterprise/
  • A new visa restriction policy under Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act that applies to current and former Russian government officials believed to be involved in suppressing dissent in Russia and abroad. Family members of those who fall under the policy will also be ineligible for visas.  We have taken our first action pursuant to this new visa authority against 38 individuals, and will continue to implement this policy to demonstrate solidarity with the victims of Russia’s repression.
  • Designation of two of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) officers in Crimea, Artur Shambazov and Andrey Tishenin, pursuant to Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2021.  Shambazov and Tishenin were publicly designated for their involvement in a gross violation of human rights, namely torture.
  • Action to impose visa restrictions on six individuals who, acting on behalf of the Russian Federation, were involved in attacks on Chechen dissidents living in Europe.  This action is being taken pursuant to the “Khashoggi Ban,” a visa restriction policy the Administration announced last year to counter transnational repression.
  • Action to impose visa restrictions on 25 individuals responsible for undermining democracy in Belarus pursuant to Presidential Proclamation 8015, including Belarusian nationals involved in the fatal shooting and beating of two peaceful protesters; security forces involved in the violent dispersal of peaceful protests; regime officials responsible for launching politically-motivated cases against members of the opposition and civil society; and individuals engaging in corrupt practices supporting the Lukashenka regime.
  • Additionally, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is imposing sanctions on Kurchaloi District of the Chechen Republic Branch of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, two of its officers, a Kurchaloi District prosecutor, and a district court judge in Moscow, pursuant to the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012.  OFAC is also re-designating Alyaksandr Lukashenka for his corrupt practices, and, pursuant to E.O. 13405, designating Galina Lukashenka as a member of Lukashenka’s family.

Under President Putin, Russian authorities have repeatedly targeted human rights advocates, peaceful dissenters, and whistleblowers, and they continue to do so amidst their ruthless war on Ukraine.  The Russian government has failed to take adequate steps to identify, investigate, prosecute, or punish most officials who committed abuses or violations, resulting in a climate of impunity.  Likewise, the Lukashenka regime continues its brutal crackdown on peaceful activists while it intensifies its support to the invasion of Ukraine.  We are taking action against this autocratic attack on democracy.  The United States will continue to promote accountability for those who support, enable, and perpetrate human rights abuses in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and elsewhere.