Belarusian opposition leader calls for more Canadian aid during visit to Ottawa

OTTAWA – Canada imposed new sanctions on 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 Minister Mélanie Joly announced the sanctions against 22 Belarusian officials and 16 companies while receiving 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 parking and transporting Russian military personnel and equipment, according to the government. The list also includes companies from the military manufacturing, technology, engineering, banking and railway sectors.

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

“We need to give people energy,” he said. “Don’t let people burn out, don’t let people be forgotten. That is why we are asking for more assistance from our civil society, from our media, from programs to defend human rights”.

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 serious human rights violations and authoritarianism.

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

Tsikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania after the vote under official pressure, and the government unleashed a sweeping crackdown on the 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 launching pad for Russian forces.

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

— With archives from The Associated Press.

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