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Belarus opposition leader calls for tougher Western sanctions on Belarus, Russia

Russian and Belarusian armed forces take part in Allied Determination-2022 military drill.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

PARIS — Western nations need to impose tougher sanctions on both Russia and Belarus to deter them from further aggression, Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told CNBC Wednesday.

“If Russia or Belarus doesn’t respond to the sanction regime, it means that it’s not enough,” Tsikhanouskaya said in Paris, France.

Tsikhanouskaya, a 39-year-old former English teacher, was forced into exile by the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko after a 2020 election widely believed to have been rigged in his favor.

Belarus has since developed closer ties with Russia following mass protests that erupted in the days after the vote on Aug. 9, 2020. Thousands of people took to the streets to demand the resignation of Lukashenko.

The authoritarian leader has maintained his grip on power, however. He claimed a landslide victory in the 2020 vote, providing him with his sixth term in office and has denied allegations of fraud.

Russia has also provided financial aid to Minsk. The Kremlin has used these closer ties to conduct military drills in the country.

This has been one of the main challenges for the U.S. and the Western military alliance of NATO as it gives access to Russian troops to the north part of Ukraine.

“When Lukashenko understands that all his actions will have serious consequences, you know he will think twice to support (the) Kremlin … to continue violence and terror in our country. So, we need [a] stronger answer from all the democratic world,” Tsikhanouskaya said.

The U.S., Canada, the U.K. and the European Union announced a new package of sanctions against Moscow after Russian President Vladimir Putin formally recognized the areas of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine as independent.

This is not the first time that Russia has been subject to sanctions. The European Union, for instance, imposed economic penalties on the Russian economy and restrictions on certain individuals after the illegal annexation of Crimea back in 2014.

Belarus has also been slapped with sanctions. The EU adopted a fifth package of measures back in December for “continued human rights abuses and the instrumentalization of migrants.”

“I know that the sixth package of sanctions is being prepared. And I hope that all the loopholes will be closed, especially if military troops, Russian troops will not leave our country,” Tsikhanouskaya said.

The European Union has warned against the loss of sovereignty of Belarus toward Russia.

“With a non-transparent deployment of Russian forces, Belarus is losing its nuclear neutrality. It is in the process of satellization with respect to Russia,” EU Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borrell said earlier this week.

Belarus also provoked international outcry in 2021 after provoking a forced landing of a Ryanair flight and subsequently imprisoning a journalist that was on board.

More recently, the regime was blamed for giving visas to citizens from Iraq and Syria and then pushing them to European countries.

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