Belarusian opposition leader asks for more Canadian assistance during visit to Ottawa

OTTAWA –

Canada levelled new sanctions against Belarus on Tuesday over its abysmal human-rights record and support for Russia’s war in Ukraine, even as the country’s exiled opposition leader called for more support for pro-democracy activists and others.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly announced the sanctions against 22 Belarusian officials and 16 companies while hosting Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who was in Ottawa to meet with members of the government and Parliament.

“Our goal is really to make sure that impunity is not an option, and we put maximum pressure on these Belarusian individuals and entities,” Joly said during a brief appearance with Tsikhanouskaya on Parliament Hill.

Those sanctioned include people involved in the stationing and transport of Russian military personnel and equipment, according to the government. The list also includes companies across the military manufacturing, tech, engineering, banking and rail sectors.

Tsikhanouskaya thanked Canada for its support in applying more economic and political pressure on the Belarusian regime led by President Alexander Lukashenko, but also asked for more.

“We need to give energy to people,” she said. “Not let people to be exhausted, not to let people be forgotten. So that’s why we are asking for more assistance to our civil society, to our media, human-rights defendant programs.”

Belarus is a former Soviet state in eastern Europe that has been ruled for nearly 20 years by Lukashenko, who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. His regime has been accused of gross human-rights violations and authoritarianism.

Tsikhanouskaya ran against Lukashenko in August 2020 elections. Lukashenko claimed victory, but Canada, along with the European Union and United States, refused to acknowledge the results amid widespread allegations of fraud, intimidation and voter suppression.

Tsikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania after the vote under official pressure, and the government unleashed a sweeping crackdown on protests, arresting more than 35,000 people.

More recently, Belarus has played a key role in Russia’s war in Ukraine by serving as a launch pad for Russian forces.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2022.

With files from The Associated Press.

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