Britain and Canada have imposed sanctions on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, his son and other top officials for allegedly rigging the country’s presidential election and committing acts of violence against protesters.
The sanctions are the first imposed by major Western powers against Belarusian government officials and subject them to an immediate travel ban and asset freeze.
Lukashenko’s post-election crackdown has resulted in the arrest of more than 12,000 people who participated in mass demonstrations that erupted after he claimed victory in an election that opponents allege was stolen. Lukashenko has denied the election was fixed.
“Today the U.K. and Canada have sent a clear message by imposing sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko’s violent and fraudulent regime,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.
“We don’t accept the results of the election,” the statement added. “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.”
In an interview with Reuters, Raab also mentioned Lukashenko ally Vladimir Putin, although the sanctions did not target the Russian president.
Canadian Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Francois-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.”
In addition to Lukashenko and his son, Viktor, who is his chief-of-staff, Britain’s sanctions target the interior minister and two deputy interior ministers. Canada has sanctioned Lukashenko and 10 others.
Earlier Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged European support for the people of Belarus after he met with opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
The talks took place in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, where Tsikhanouskaya fled after the August presidential election in Belarus sparked a political crisis.
Many in Belarus reject the official results of the election that gave Lukashenko a sixth term in office, and thousands have protested in the weeks following the vote.
The European Union said last week it does not recognize Lukashenko as president, and Macron has said he must step down.