Omar Alghabra tweeted that Ottawa was targeting the Russian ally in its response to the war in eastern Europe. Canada has also banned Russian flights from entering its airspace.
“We are prohibiting Belarusian aircraft from entering Canadian airspace in response to their support for Russia’s unprovoked aggression in Ukraine,” he said.
Belarus, which neighbours Russia, has played a supporting role in Moscow’s war on Ukraine, allowing President Vladimir Putin to stage troops in the country that shares a northern border with Ukraine.
Earlier this month, Canada announced it would impose a 35-per cent tariff on goods from Russia and Belarus.
Furthermore, the federal government said it would revoke Russia’s and Belarus’ status as a most-favoured-nation trade partner under World Trade Organization provisions; North Korea is the only other nation that does not enjoy that status with Canada.
The European Union also sanctioned Belarus over its role in the invasion earlier in the month.
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In Ottawa last week, Belarus’ exiled opposition leader told a defence conference that ordinary Belarusians are actively resisting the invasion of Ukraine, disrupting railway supplies to Russian forces and warning Ukrainians about movements of Russian aircraft.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said it was important to distinguish between Alexander Lukashenko’s Kremlin-controlled regime and the Belarusian people who have no way to influence his policies.
She called on Canada and other Western countries to introduce tougher sanctions on Belarus, including on its state banks, warning that Russia is using Belarusian banks to circumvent sanctions on its own institutions.
Tsikhanouskaya added Belarus should also be removed from the SWIFT banking system, the messaging system used by financial institutions.
Since the invasion began on Feb. 24, Canada and its allies have imposed severe sanctions on Russia and its confidants, and have promised to do more to deter Moscow from escalating its war in Ukraine.
Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special operation” that it says is not designed to occupy territory, but to destroy its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.
Kyiv and its Western allies have said this is a baseless pretext to invade a country of 44 million people to topple its government, which Putin regards as a puppet of the United States.
After three weeks of war, the invasion hasn’t gone as planned for Putin, who has seen his troops run into stiff Ukrainian resistance and stall on several fronts.
However on Wednesday, new talks of compromise from both Moscow and Kyiv on a status for Ukraine outside of NATO lifted hope for a potential breakthrough in peace arrangements.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said negotiations were becoming “more realistic,” while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said proposals now being discussed were “close to an agreement.”
Putin said in a televised address Moscow was ready to discuss neutral status for its neighbour, but doubled down on his earlier claims the “special operation” was going to plan and that Russia would achieve its goals in Ukraine.
— with files from The Canadian Press and Reuters.