LONDON, March 23 ― A leading exiled Belarusian opposition figure today urged the West to strengthen sanctions against President Alexander Lukashenko and his regime for supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Lukashenko has backed President Vladimir Putin’s war, allowing him to launch attacks from Belarusian territory and prompting critics to brand him a “partner-in-crime” and “co-aggressor”.
Although he has faced tightening sanctions since violently cracking down on mass protests in Belarus following elections in 2020 widely condemned as rigged, critics argue Western nations could and should go further.
“Lukashenko deserves far more global opprobrium than has come his way,” Pavel Latushko, a leading Poland-based Belarusian dissident wrote in The New European newspaper.
“He may be Putin’s pawn. But he is also a major player in this horror show, and it is time the West realised it, and acted accordingly. Both of these monsters need to be held to account.”
Latushko, who fled his homeland amid the crackdown that has seen tens of thousands of people detained, has penned an open letter to world leaders urging them to mirror in Belarus the sanctions recently imposed on Russia.
He also wants the international community to consider including Lukashenko in any war crimes charges filed, noting dissidents have also been amassing evidence of his brutal repression inside Belarus.
“The West needs a serious response; prosecution for his past crimes; sanctions for his current crimes,” Latushko stated in the letter.
“Anything less is playing his, and Putin’s game.”
The United States earlier this month renewed sanctions against Lukashenko, who has faced measures there since 2006, while it has tightened restrictions on his government and the country’s economy.
They include visa restrictions on dozens of people allegedly involved in “undermining democracy in Belarus” as well as a ban on luxury goods exports to the eastern European country and other moves.
Meanwhile the UK currently has 108 individuals and 10 entities from Belarus under sanctions, after expanding its target list earlier this month.
The US and UK are also set to suspend the “most favoured nation” trade status of both Russia and Belarus, while the European Union is looking at doing the same.
However, the measures against Belarus pale in comparison to the actions taken against Moscow, which has faced unprecedented measures.
The United States, UK and EU have hit hundreds of Russian individuals and companies with asset freezes and travel bans and hiked tariffs on imports of goods such as vodka and steel.
Washington has imposed an immediate ban on Russian oil and other energy imports, while London has said it will cut out such oil imports by the end of this year and Brussels is mulling how it can reduce its imports. ― AFP