FILE PHOTO:Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko addresses the Parliament in Minsk, Belarus.AP
Belarus on Thursday announced that the United States would have to cut its diplomatic and administrative staff in the ex-Soviet country as part of retaliatory sanctions following punitive measures from Washington.
The Belarusian foreign ministry also said that permission for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to work in the country had been revoked.
In a statement, the Belarusian foreign ministry spokesman, Anatoly Glaz, said the United States would have to cut its diplomatic and administrative staff in Belarus and visa procedures would also be tightened. He did not provide specifics.
In April, the United States said it was reimposing sanctions on nine state-owned companies in Belarus after strongman Alexander Lukashenko ignored warnings to release political prisoners following a crackdown on the opposition after a disputed election last year.
The sanctions came into effect earlier Thursday.
Glaz said the US measures would only hurt "ordinary Belarus citizens".
"These actions are illegal, contradict international law and are aimed at putting pressure on a sovereign state," he said in the statement.
Last week the White House announced it would impose more sanctions on Belarus after it diverted a European flight and arrested a dissident on board.
Lukashenko in 2008 threw out the US ambassador after the George W. Bush administration imposed sanctions on the president, his allies and a state oil company following elections seen as unfair and a crackdown on protesters.