OTTAWA — Alexander Lukashenko is not the legitimate leader of Belarus and he is disregarding basic human rights and democratic principles, Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said in a statement on Thursday.
“Canada considers that Alexander Lukashenko lacks the legitimacy to be the leader of Belarus,” Champagne said, after commenting that his “so-called inauguration” as president behind closed doors follows a “fraudulent” election.
“The inauguration is as illegitimate as the elections it follows ... Such gestures only show Lukashenko’s disregard for basic democratic principles and the fundamental human rights of the people of Belarus,” Champagne said.
The Canadian condemnation comes on the same day that Reuters reported new sanctions against Belarusians are in the works, according to sources.
The United States, Britain and Canada plan to impose sanctions on Belarusian individuals following what they view as a rigged election on Aug. 9 and violence against peaceful protesters in the following weeks, six sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.
Four of the sources, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, said the U.S., British and Canadian sanctions could come as early as on Friday, though this could slip given the challenge of co-ordinating among three nations.
The sources said the sanctions aimed to show there would be consequences for the disputed election and the treatment of protesters in Belarus, a former Soviet state where President Lukashenko has ruled for 26 years.
Lukashenko, whose forces have detained or driven out all of Belarus’s leading opposition figures, arrested thousands of protesters and clamped down on news reporting, was abruptly sworn in for a sixth term on Wednesday.
On Sept. 1, a senior U.S. State Department official told Reuters the United States was considering imposing sanctions on seven Belarusians who it believes were involved in falsifying the results of the election and in violence against protesters.
One of the six sources said the number was now eight Belarusians, but could change.
The U.S. State Department and the Canadian foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the U.K. parliament on Thursday that Britain was preparing sanctions against those responsible for serious human rights violations in Belarus and co-ordinating with the United States and Canada “as a matter of urgency.”
The European Union said Lukashenko was not the legitimate president of Belarus, and that his abrupt swearing-in had gone directly against the will of the people.
With files from Steve Scherer, Arshad Mohammed, Matt Spetalnick, Robin Emmott, Kate Holton, Elizabeth Piper and David Ljunggren.