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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Freezes Lukashenko's Holdings

BRUSSELS -- The European Union said Thursday it was freezing the assets and funds held in EU countries by Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko and 35 other top officials to protest the continuing crackdown against opposition groups and the president's re-election two months ago.

The EU said ambassadors from the 25-nation bloc agreed to expand sanctions imposed in April, which put a visa ban on Lukashenko and 30 other senior officials in response to the election which was condemned as fraudulent by the opposition and Western governments.

"No funds or economic resources shall be made available, directly or indirectly, to or for the benefit of the persons concerned," the EU said in a statement.

It was not clear what assets or funds, if any, Lukashenko or the others on the list have in other European nations.

The move does not affect humanitarian aid, including EU funding for education scholarships given to Belarus.

The EU said the people on its sanctions lists "are responsible for the violations of international electoral standards and the crackdown on civil society and the democratic opposition."

Belarussian opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich was freed from jail last week after serving a 15-day sentence for taking part in an unsanctioned rally. Milinkevich, who ran unsuccessfully against the authoritarian Lukashenko in the March election, has been a unifying figure for an opposition that incorporates widely diverse forces ranging from democrats to communists.