Britain said Thursday it was preparing sanctions against those in Belarus responsible for "rigging" the August 9 presidential election and for the subsequent crackdown on protests against President Alexander Lukashenko.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK was initiating its own sanctions, in coordination with the United States and Canada, after the European Union’s measures were delayed by Cyprus.
“Given that delay, given Lukashenko’s fraudulent inauguration, I have directed the FCDO sanction team to prepare Magnitsky sanctions for those responsible for the serious human rights violations,” he told parliament.
Kremlin-critic lawyer Sergei Magnitsky’s 2009 death in a Moscow prison from an untreated illness led several Western countries to impose sanctions on Russian officials, which have since been mirrored against other countries.
Raab added London was working with Washington and Ottawa “to prepare appropriate listings as matter of urgency” against Belarusian authorities.
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets since the August 9 elections which opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya says she won, despite Lukashenko’s insistence he won a landslide victory.
The embattled leader has launched a brutal crackdown against them, drawing condemnation from the West but support from Moscow.
He triggered new demonstrations and fresh Western criticism this week after holding a secret inauguration for himself.
Saying Lukashenko has a “wholesale lack of legitimacy”, Raab told the House of Commons: “We do not accept the results of this rigged election”.
Several other European countries, including Germany, and the US have also responded by refusing to recognise him as the president of the ex-Soviet state.
Meanwhile Washington said last week it would impose new sanctions on Belarusian figures imminently.
It is pressing Cyprus to lift its veto on proposed EU sanctions to allow a “coherent” response to the crisis there, a senior official said Tuesday.
The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have already blacklisted Lukashenko and 29 other high-ranking officials from the Belarusian election commission, ministries and police.
Raab noted the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) — a global security body of 57 states, including Belarus — had been instructed to initiate “a full and independent investigation” into the events.
“If the authorities in Belarus fail to respond, based on the outcome of the OSCE investigation, which we have triggered, we will consider further actions with our international partners,” he added.