UK Government urged to impose sanctions on Belarusian dictator
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing calls to toughen the UK’s stance against the authoritarian leader of Belarus, amid increasing anti-government protests over alleged election rigging and human rights abuses in the country.
The SNP leader at Westminster Ian Blackford wrote to Johnson, urging him to consider imposing sanctions on Aleksander Lukashenko and any other Belarusian officials responsible for electoral fraud and ordering or committing human rights abuses.
The UK Government has previously said it does not accept the results of the presidential election held in the country, labelling it “fraudulent”, but Blackford said it must go further and “show leadership in upholding human rights”.
Blackford’s letter comes after two weeks of swelling opposition to Lukashenko, who has ruled the Eastern European country for 26 years.
He is widely accused of rigging the presidential election of 9 August and of presiding over a system of extreme police brutality and civil suppression.
The leading opposition figure Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who threatened Lukashenko in the polls, has been forced to flee to Lithuania, where she continues to organise.
The UK, the European Union and the United States are among those condemning the self-declared authoritarian, with the EU imposing sanctions against government officials on Wednesday.
Blackford, who met with Belarusian opposition representatives on Thursday, called on the UK Government to do the same.
He said: "It is vital that the UK shows leadership on this issue and does everything within its power to support the Belarusian people in their pursuit of basic democratic and human rights."
“The European Council has taken some important first steps in forming a co-ordinated response. They have set out their intention to impose sanctions against a substantial number of individuals responsible for violence, repression and the falsification of election results. It is vital that the UK now follows this lead," he added.
“In light of this unacceptable situation I am therefore recommending the immediate drafting of Magnitsky-style sanctions against those individuals responsible. These extensive powers must be used to enforce sanctions on any individual who has engaged in violence, political corruption or democratic suppression against the interests of the Belarusian people.
“If the UK government is to show the necessary leadership on this issue, it is vital that these targeted sanctions are imposed without further delay.
“The people of Belarus have a right to determine their own future. It vital that we now support them as their efforts to win their freedom and democracy reach a critical moment.”