The United States strongly condemns the actions that the Government of Belarus has taken to undermine the democratic process and use disproportionate force against political activists, civil society representatives and journalists, and we call for the immediate release of all presidential candidates and the hundreds of protestors who were detained on December 19 and 20. The United States cannot accept as legitimate the results of the presidential election announced by the Belarusian Central Election Commission December 20. We regret, as the OSCE’s election observer mission assessment made clear, that limited progress in the political environment prior to yesterday’s elections did not lead to a free and fair outcome or a transparent vote count. We are also concerned by indications that independent internet media have been disrupted and call on the Government of Belarus to take measures to protect its citizens’ right to free media. As we reiterated in the U.S.-Belarus Joint Statement of December 1, the further development of relations is contingent upon the Government of Belarus’s respect for human rights and the democratic process. The actions taken over the last 24 hours, however, are a clear step backwards on issues central to our relationship with Belarus.