The Belarusian opposition leader called on the United States to adopt sanctions against the Belarusian government that mirror those imposed on Moscow.
In meetings with the US State Department and members of Congress this week, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said she had discussed both strengthening future sanctions and closing existing loopholes.
She also said she presented the US government with evidence of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko’s involvement in Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Tsikhanouskaya said the sanctions “must be the same in strength” as those imposed on Russia “but different in structure”, and should target state banks and state enterprises.
The opposition leader said she has spoken with officials in Washington, D.C., about ways to “make the sanctions more effective, close the remaining loopholes, freeze Lukashenko’s assets and block the money given to him by the (International Monetary Fund)”.
Tsikhanouskaya suggested the use of secondary sanctions to fill these gaps.
“We see how Russia is using Belarus to circumvent its own sanctions,” she said, citing the example of steel.
She said, however, that the sanctions are hitting the Lukashenko regime, citing what she described as letters from the foreign minister asking for a rapprochement sent in recent weeks.
“I hope Lukashenka will not manage to deceive democratic countries again, as he has done many times before,” she said.
Tsikhanouskaya met with US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman – a meeting partly attended by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken – as well as Jim O’Brien, head of the Office of Sanctions Coordination at the Department of US state.
Tsikhanouskaya told reporters she gave O’Brien “documents with proof of Lukashenko’s involvement in the war against Ukraine, as well as the list of companies and countries that helped circumvent sanctions “.
She said this includes “massive evidence of missile launches from our territory, movement of Russian equipment into the territory of Belarus.”
“This is inside information about some internal orders regarding the deployment of various Russian military equipment on our territory,” she continued. “So people collected this information for the duration of the war. They are well documented and we have passed this evidence to the government.
Tsikhanouskaya said she did not believe the Belarusian military was involved in launching these missiles, and instead Lukashenko gave the land to Russian President Vladimir Putin to use as he wished.
“It is already the world war. We are so afraid of World War III, but it is already happening,” she said. “It’s the war between democracy and autocracy.”