Britain and Canada have announced sanctions on senior Belarusian figures including President Alexander Lukashenko following last month”s election and the subsequent crackdown on protesters.
Seven other officials including the country’s interior minister, the public security police chief and Lukashenko’s son Victor — a national security adviser — are covered by the sanctions, which include an asset freeze and travel ban.
It makes the president the first leader of a country to be sanctioned by the UK under its new Global Human Rights programme, which was introduced in July.
Belarus’s opposition says the August 9 election fraudulently gave Lukashenko a sixth term in office with over 80% of the vote.
Tens of thousands have protested across the country in the seven weeks since voting day despite a crackdown that has seen police deploy violent tactics and arrest more than 7,000 people.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said his country and Canada were sending “a clear message by imposing sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko’s violent and fraudulent regime”.
He said: “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.”
Canada’s Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne added the two countries were acting together to ensure the sanctions “have a greater impact”.
The British sanctions prevent the named Belarusian officials from entering the country or channelling money through UK banks.
EU leaders were unable to agree sanctions on Belarus after they were blocked by Cyprus, which said similar measures should be adopted against Turkey for its drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.