Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko delivers a speech during his inauguration ceremony at the Palace of the Independence in Minsk, Belarus, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. Canada and the U.K. announced coordinated sanctions against Lukashenko and a number of high-ranking officials on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. (Maxim Guchek, BelTA/Pool Photo via AP)

Canada imposes sanctions on Belarusian officials

Canada and the U.K. are imposing coordinated sanctions against 11 Belarusian government officials, including President Alexander Lukashenko and his son, following the disputed presidential election and a crackdown on protesters in Belarus.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Tuesday the Canadian sanctions are being taken under the Special Economic Measures Act.

The measures include a travel ban and asset freeze, as well as a ban on any financial dealings with any of the 11 individuals from the Belarusian government, including Lukashenko, and his eldest son, Victor Lukashenko, and Igor Sergeenko, the head of the presidential administration.

Central Elections Commission Chairwoman Lidiya Ermoshina, left, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko shake hands during his inauguration ceremony at the Palace of the Independence in Minsk, Belarus, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. Both Ermoshina and Lukashenko are among 11 Belarusian officials targeted by Canadian sanctions announced on Sept. 29, 2020. (Andrei Stasevich/Pool Photo via AP)

Since the Aug. 9 presidential elections that Canada and its Western allies have deemed “fraudulent” and refused to recognize, Belarusian authorities have conducted a systematic campaign of repression and state-sponsored violence against public protests and the activities of opposition groups, 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,” Champagne said.

“Canada and the United Kingdom are acting together to ensure these sanctions have a greater impact and to demonstrate unity in our condemnation of the situation.”

Canada stands in solidarity with the people of Belarus as they struggle to restore human rights and achieve democracy in their country, he added.

People attend an opposition rally to reject the presidential election results and to protest against the inauguration of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus Sept. 27, 2020. (Tut.By via REUTERS)

Belarusian opposition, which rejected Lukashenko’s claim of landslide victory, has staged massive protests against the authoritarian leader who has ruled the former Soviet republic with an iron fist since first coming to power in 1994.

The opposition and civil society groups have presented evidence of massive vote rigging by the Belarussian authorities and say opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who was forced to flee to neighbouring Lithuania, is the real winner of the contested vote.

Canada has refused to recognize the legitimacy of Lukashenko’s claim and condemned his hastily arranged inauguration for a sixth term in office last week.

The sanctions announced Tuesday are part of a broader diplomatic effort by Canada to find a way towards a positive change in the current situation in Belarus, Champagne said. These include efforts at supporting the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), advocating for media freedom and support to civil society, he added.

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