The exiled Belarusian opposition leader got what she wanted in her first official visit to Ottawa, even before she walked through the door on Tuesday. and targeted military and security services that have supported Russia in its war with Ukraine.
But Sviatlana Tsikhanoskaya’s visit shed light on how closely her opposition movement has worked with Ukraine, and how Kyiv’s victory could serve as an inspiration for change in Belarus.
Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in a statement that the Belarusian regime is supporting human rights abuses by allowing the country to serve as a springboard for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. 22 officials have been added to the sanctions list, including those involved in the stationing or transportation of Russian military personnel and equipment.
In addition, 16 Belarusian companies in sectors such as military, manufacturing, technology, engineering, banking and railways were also subject to penalties.
CBC News reached out to Jolie’s office but received no response.
I met with the Minister of Defense last weekend.
Tihanuskaya, who was widely believed to have won the 2020 presidential election in Belarus, said Monday that these sanctions are one of many he plans to demand during talks with Prime Ministers Jolly and Justin Trudeau over the next two days. said it is.
She is also seeking non-lethal military aid to up to 500 Belarusians fighting as volunteers for Ukraine.
Tihanuskaya has already met with Defense Minister Anita Anand. The two spoke at the Halifax International Security Forum last weekend.
“I don’t want the world to overlook Lukashenko’s participation in this war,” Tihanuskaya told CBC News, referring to Lukashenko.
Lukashenko was able to remain in power after contested elections despite the international community believing that voter fraud was widespread. large-scale demonstrations were violently suppressed by the security services.
Lukashenko is a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the former Soviet republics are heavily dependent on Moscow both politically and economically.
“I urge Canada to consider imposing separate sanctions on provincial propagandists, KGB secret service employees and regime supporters,” he said.
“I don’t understand why so many of these people fueling repression and Putin’s war machine can travel to Europe.”
Strong military ties between Russia and Belarus
Defense experts say Russia and Belarus have many deals governing military cooperation. These include the use of Russia as a springboard for an invasion of northern Ukraine, the use of Belarusian radar installations and air bases, and the joint regional air defense system established in 2009.
A report published earlier this month showed new satellite imagery suggesting that thousands of Russian troops may have returned to Belarus. This raises questions about the possibility of another attack on Ukraine from the north, or the possibility of Moscow and Minsk trying to distract Kyiv.
In October, Lukashenko ordered his own forces to deploy alongside Russian forces near Ukraine, claiming there was a clear threat to Belarus from Kyiv and its supporters in the West.
Tsikhanoskaya said it was likely a distraction.
“If that’s the case [invasion] I call on the Belarusians to disobey the order and refuse to carry it out when the order is issued,” she said.
Russia’s war against Ukraine is very unpopular among Belarusians, she said. not
Brian Whitmore, a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasian Center, agreed that Putin’s aggression was unpopular in Belarus and roused the public.
In a recent opinion piece in Foreign Policy magazine, Mr Whitmore said, “The Belarusian people’s actions, including the sabotage of railroad lines to prevent Russian troops from reaching the front, and the hacking campaign by groups calling themselves cyber partisans, are not the norm.” It has also caused resistance,” he said.
Belarusian volunteers also join a Ukrainian militia called the Kastus Kalinouski Battalion, named after the leader of the 19th-century Belarusian uprising against the Russian Empire.
“We are asking for help for military volunteers fighting side by side with Ukrainians. Winter is coming and people need warm clothes … non-lethal equipment, medical aid And it’s great to send that kind of humanitarian aid. [a] Belarusian battalion in Ukraine, ”said Tsyhanuskaya.