UK, Canada impose sanctions on Lukashenko

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko talks to journalists during his meeting with media called 'Great talk to the President' in Minsk, Belarus, 03 February 2017. [EPA/NIKOLAI PETROV]

Britain and Canada on Tuesday (29 September) slapped sanctions on Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, his son and senior figures in the regime for a string of alleged human rights violations.

Lukashenko and seven other individuals will be subject to an immediate travel ban and asset freeze, in response to the disputed recent elections and crackdown on protesters.

“Today the UK and Canada have sent a clear message by imposing sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko’s violent and fraudulent regime,” UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

“We don’t accept the results of this rigged election. We will hold those responsible for the thuggery deployed against the Belarusian people to account and we will stand up for our values of democracy and human rights.”

Raab, who is currently on a visit to South Korea, has previously threatened sanctions against the Belarussian strongman as a result of the August 9 vote.

He has denounced what he said was the “grisly repression” of unprecedented protests over the result, and demanded an independent international investigation.

The EU has also threatened Lukashenko’s regime with sanctions, but efforts to impose them have been vetoed by Cyprus.

EU urged to sanction Lukashenko as struggle with Cyprus continues

Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya on Monday (21 September) urged the EU to show courage and impose sanctions on Alexander Lukashenko’s government, as the bloc continues to face internal squabbles about sanctions ahead of a crucial foreign policy summit later this week.

Lukashenko claimed victory with 80% of the vote, despite wide opposition to his 26-year rule, including from western nations and the EU.

Those on the sanctions list are the president’s son and national security adviser, Viktor, his chief of staff and senior figures in the minister of internal affairs and police.

Britain announced a new sanctions regime in July this year and imposed restrictions on 49 individuals and organisations involved in serious alleged human rights abuses.

They included 25 Russian nationals said to be linked to the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009, and 20 Saudis involved in the 2018 murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Two high-ranking Myanmar generals were also red-flagged over the treatment of the Rohingya people, and two North Korean groups accused of forced labour, torture and murder.

The restrictions against Lukashenko are the first against a country’s leader under the new sanctions regime, and stops him from travel to the UK and Canada, or channelling money through banks.

They come as French President Emmanuel Macron promised to help with mediation in the political crisis, earning a strong rebuke from Russia’s Vladimir Putin at “external pressure”.

EU sanctions explained

As the EU is struggling to find a response to Turkey’s disruptive activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, the upheaval in Belarus and the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, EURACTIV provides a closer look at how the EU’s sanction regime works and what the current challenges are.

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