The leader of the Belarusian opposition called on the United States to enact sanctions on the government of Belarus that mirror those imposed on Moscow.
In meetings with the US State Department and members of Congress this week, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said she discussed both strengthening future sanctions and closing loopholes on existing ones.
She also said she presented the US government with evidence of Belarusian strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko’s involvement in the Russian war in Ukraine.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Tsikhanouskaya said sanctions “must be the same on strength” as those imposed on Russia “but different in structure,” and should target state banks and state enterprises.
The opposition leader said she spoke with officials in Washington, DC, about ways of “making restrictions more effective, closing closing closing loopholes, freezing Lukashenka’s assets and blocking the money given to him by the (International Monetary Fund).”
Tsikhanouskaya said suggested the use of secondary sanctions to close such loopholes.
“We see how Russia uses Belarus to circumvent their own sanctions,” she said, citing the example of steel.
She said sanctions are hitting the Lukashenko regime, however, citing what she described as letters from the Minister of Foreign Affairs seeking rapprochement sent in recent weeks.
“I hope that Lukashenka will not manage to fool democratic countries again, as he did many times before,” she said.
Tsikhanouskaya met with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman – a meeting that was attended in part by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken – as well as Jim O’Brien, head of the Office of Sanctions Coordination at the US State Department.
Tsikhanouskaya told reporters she gave O’Brien “documents with the evidence of Lukashenka’s involvement in the war against Ukraine, as well as the list of companies and countries that helped to circumvent the sanctions.”
She said that includes “massive evidence of launching missiles from our territory, movement of Russian equipment in the territory of Belarus.”
“It’s inside information about some internal orders about deployment of different Russian military equipment in our territory,” she continued. “So people have been collecting this information for the full period of the war. They are well documented and we passed this evidence to the government.”
Tsikhanouskaya said she does not believe that the Belarusian army participated in launching these missiles, and instead Lukashenko gave the land to Russian President Vladimir Putin to use as he wanted.
“It’s already World War. We are so afraid of World War the third but it’s already going on,” she said. “It’s war between democracy and autocracy.”