The United Kingdom imposed sanctions on the Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, his son and six other senior government officials who were charged with fraud in the presidential election in August and the suppression of subsequent street protests.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced the sanctions on Tuesday in coordination with a similar move from Canada. He said, “We will hold accountable those responsible for the widespread thuggery against the Belarusian people and we will defend our values of democracy and human rights.”
The sanctions include an asset freeze and a travel ban imposed on Lukashenko himself. This is the first time that Britain’s new sanctions regime, in the wake of Brexit, has imposed sanctions on an incumbent president. Other targets include Lukashenko’s son, Viktor, and Igor Sergeenko, head of the presidential administration.
The Foreign Ministry said: “The Alexander Lukashenko regime is responsible for a series of human rights violations against opposition figures, the media and the people of Belarus in the wake of the rigged elections. Despite numerous calls from the international community, it has refused to engage in dialogue with the opposition, choosing instead to redouble its repression. Violent “.
The statement added: “The sanctions were imposed in response to the torture and ill-treatment of hundreds of peaceful demonstrators in detention following the fraudulent presidential elections. The Belarusian authorities took no action to hold those responsible accountable. Many opposition figures have been arrested or forcibly deported and prevented from returning, in a clear display of Lukashenko’s contempt for dialogue with the opposition and basic human rights.
The move came after pressure from Lithuania and Poland, the European Union’s most supportive country for the protests, but it was not clear whether the United States was taking the same steps.
More than 12,000 people have been arrested since Lukashenko was declared overwhelmingly victorious in the August 9 elections that were denounced by the opposition as rigged. Government officials prevented British embassy observers from watching the vote.
The British-Canadian decision was announced shortly after French President Emmanuel Macron met opposition leader Svetlana Tikanovskaya during his visit to Lithuania in a move that brings it closer to European official recognition of the legitimate leader of Belarus.
Tikanovskaya, who was forced into exile in Lithuania under pressure from Lukashenko, said after his meeting with Macron that he promised to help negotiate the release of prisoners in Belarus.
The Macron meeting was an expression of solidarity after the European Union was collectively unable to reach an agreement on sanctions against Belarus after Cyprus said it would veto the move until the EU also agrees to impose sanctions on Turkey as part of a separate dispute over exploration rights. Gas. The fields of the eastern Mediterranean.
The European Union’s foreign policy coordinator, Josep Borrell, expressed his deep personal frustration with the European Union’s inability to quickly demonstrate solidarity with the Belarusian opposition. It would not be lost on him that the UK and Canada were able to act. There are also doubts about whether Germany wants to impose sanctions on the president on the grounds that it may close the door of discussion.
The meeting between Macron and Tikanovskaya comes two days after tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Belarus in the latest series of protests to demand Lukashenko’s resignation.
The demonstrations – mostly led by women – are the largest in the history of the independent Soviet state.
Macron defended an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but his initiative was weakened by Putin’s support for Lukashenko.
Tikanovskaya said that Macron “said that time is very important because so many people are suffering from the system, many people find themselves in prison, and he will do his best to help release all political prisoners.”