The UK is drawing up “Magnitsky”-style human rights sanctions against officials in Belarus responsible for administering the rigged re-election of president Alexander Lukashenko or directing the violent suppression of subsequent street protests.
The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said on Thursday that he will introduce the sanctions in conjunction with the US and Canada, reiterating that Lukashenko’s election on 9 August could not be regarded as legitimate.
Efforts by the European Union to impose sanctions have been held up by Cyprus’s refusal to endorse the move unless sanctions are imposed on Turkey in a separate dispute over drilling rights in the east Mediterranean. The delay has been a humiliation to the EU’s efforts to project a coherent foreign policy.
Lukashenko was sworn for a sixth term in office on Wednesday in a ceremony without announcements or publicity – apparently in an effort to avoid it becoming a magnet for protesters. Opposition leaders and European politicians immediately denounced his inauguration as illegitimate.
Raab told MPs: “We do not accept the results of this rigged election. Second, we condemn the thuggery deployed against the Belarussian people.” He said the violence being used by the state was brazen.
He added it is “absolutely critical” that those responsible are held to account, explaining: “We are willing to join the EU in adopting targeted sanctions against those responsible for the violence, the repression and the vote-rigging, although the EU process has now been delayed in Brussels.