Belarus announced on Thursday retaliatory measures against Washington, including reducing U.S. diplomatic personnel in the country, following the entry into force of new sanctions against Minsk.
"We cannot overlook this unfriendly procedure," Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Anatoli Glaz said in a statement, just as U.S. economic sanctions are instituted against nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises.
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According to the statement, the retaliatory measures include "the reduction of diplomatic, administrative and technical staff" at the U.S. embassy in Minsk and "the tightening of the process of issuing visas" to Belarusians.
Belarus also withdrew authorization to work in the country for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), it said.
In Washington, U.S. diplomacy spokesman Ned Price confirmed that Minsk notified its decisions, which "will take effect on June 13."
"Unfortunately, it was the Belarusian authorities who brought our relationship to this situation with their relentless and escalating repression against their citizens," he added.
U.S. sanctions against nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises were reinstated in April following the violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Belarus.
"These are illegitimate actions that go against international law and seek to put pressure on a sovereign state," Glaz insisted. The measures will have an impact above all "on ordinary Belarusian citizens," he added.
Last week, Washington announced that it was working with the European Union to develop additional sanctions against Belarus, following the diversion of a European airliner by Minsk and the arrest of a dissident journalist on board.