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Belarusian President Pardons Nine Convicted For December Protests


President Alyaksandr Lukashenka
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has pardoned nine of the 41 people convicted for taking part in the massive December 19 protests that followed his disputed reelection.

Reports did not name those amnestied by Lukashenka.

RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports the nine freed had requested an amnesty, admitted taking part in the demonstrations, and pledged not to engage in such activities again.

Among those jailed over the protests are a number of opposition politicians who ran against Lukashenka, including his leading rival in the election, Andrey Sannikau, who was handed a five-year sentence in May.

In the United States, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland announced new sanctions on Belarus for the crackdown on activists, journalists, and others in the wake of the December 19 protest.

"Today the United States imposed additional economic sanctions against four major Belarusian state-owned enterprises," Nuland said. "The sanctions are a response to the continued incarceration of political prisoners [and] the crackdown on political activists, journalists, and civil society representatives."

The four enterprises are the Belshina tire factory; Grodno Azot, which manufactures fertilizer; Grodno Khimvolokno, a fiber manufacturer; and Naftan, a major oil refinery that the United States says are controlled by the Belneftekhim conglomerate, upon which the United States has already imposed sanctions.

Nuland noted the new sanctions come in addition to "travel restrictions, asset freezes, and sanctions announced on January 31."

based on reporting by RFE/RL's Belarus Service, Richard Solash in Washington, and agency reports