The UK and Canada on Tuesday “sent a clear message” by imposing coordinated sanctions on Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, his son, and six senior figures in the Belarusian government, the UK government said.
The sanctions were the first to be implemented by major Western powers over the crisis in Belarus, a close Russian ally.
Lukashenko is the first leader sanctioned under the UK’s new sanctions regime.
Besides Lukashenko and his son, national security adviser Viktor Lukashenko, the others on the sanctions list are Igor Petrovich Sergeenko, chief of staff to the president of Belarus; Yuri Karayev, minister of internal affairs and major general of militia; Alexander Barsukov, deputy minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and chief of public security police; Yuri Nazarenko, deputy minister of internal affairs and commander of internal troops; Khazalbek Atabekov, deputy commander of internal troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs; and Dmitry Balaba, commander of the Special Purpose Police Unit of Minsk.
The sanctions, which include a travel ban and asset freeze, is to “hold those responsible for the thuggery deployed against the Belarusian people to account” and to uphold the “values of democracy and human rights,” UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.
“The sanctions have been imposed in response to the torture and mistreatment of hundreds of peaceful protestors in custody following the fraudulent Presidential elections,” Raab said.
“The Belarusian authorities have taken no action to hold those responsible to account. Many opposition figures have been arrested or forcibly deported and denied re-entry, in a clear show of Lukashenko’s disdain for dialogue with the opposition and for basic human rights.”
Lukashenko, the authoritarian leader of Belarus, on Sept. 23 held an unannounced inauguration ceremony to mark the start of his new term, which domestic opponents and some Western countries consider illegitimate.
His regime “refused to engage in dialogue with the opposition, choosing instead to double down” on “a string of human rights violations” it’s responsible for, British Foreign Office said.
Raab told Reuters that Lukashenko should pay a cost for abusing human rights and rigging votes. Raab also mentioned Lukashenko’s ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, although none of the measures Britain announced on Tuesday target Russia.
“First and foremost there must be a cost, there must be a price with the kind of human rights abuses that we’ve seen and the fraudulent approach to that election,” Raab said in an interview during a visit to the South Korean capital of Seoul.
“We can’t just have a situation where the likes of Alexander Lukashenko and frankly Vladimir Putin think that the human rights abuses and the rigging of that election can just pass without them being held to account.”
This is the second time the UK used it’s independent Magnitsky-Style sanctions power since its introduction in July 2020. The first sanctions, announced on July 6, targeted Russian and Saudi nationals.
Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne said: “Canada will not stand by silently as the Government of Belarus continues to commit systematic human rights violations and shows no indication of being genuinely committed to finding a negotiated solution with opposition groups.”
The European Union is set to move again on sanctioning the Belarusian leader, after a first attempt was blocked by Cyprus, in a bid to leverage the EU to impose similar sanctions on Turkey.
Reuters contributed to this report.