Britain and Canada imposed travel bans and asset freezes on Tuesday on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, his son and other senior officials, accusing their government of rigging an election and committing violence against protesters.
The sanctions were the first to be implemented by major Western powers over the crisis in Belarus, a close Russian ally. There was no immediate announcement from the United States, which sources had said last week was planning to coordinate a joint announcement with its two big English-speaking allies.
More than 12,000 people have been arrested in mass demonstrations since Lukashenko, in power for 26 years, was named the landslide winner of an Aug. 9 presidential election his opponents say was stolen.
Lukashenko denies electoral fraud. All major opposition figures are either in jail or in exile.
On Tuesday, Belarus authorities announced they were revoking the registration of Belarus’s biggest news organisation outside state control, website TUT.BY. Its staff said they would try to keep operating.
“Today, the government has documented that it is depriving Belarusians of the right to the truth,” said exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhounskaya.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Reuters that Lukashenko should pay a cost for “the kind of human rights abuses that we’ve seen and the fraudulent approach to that election”.
Raab also mentioned Lukashenko’s ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, although none of the measures Britain announced on Tuesday targets Russia or any Russians.
“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.”