By Kanishka Singh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States and Canada issued new sanctions against Belarus on Wednesday, designating several entities and individuals over alleged human rights abuses and support for Russia amid the war in Ukraine.
The U.S. Treasury Department said it designated eight individuals and five entities to a sanctions list for allegedly funding the Belarusian government.
"This action targets several entities involved in the Belarusian regime’s continued civil society repression, complicity in the Russian Federation’s unjustified war in Ukraine, and enrichment of repressive Belarusian regime leader Alexander Lukashenko," the Treasury Department said in a statement.
Canada imposed sanctions against nine individuals and seven entities, with the list including government officials, judges, the head of Belarusian state television, the country's defense ministry, and military manufacturing and technology firms, the Canadian government said in a separate statement on Wednesday.
Lukashenko has repeatedly accused the West of trying to topple him after mass protests against his rule erupted in 2020 in the wake of a presidential election the opposition said he had fraudulently won. Lukashenko said he had won fairly, while conducting a sweeping crackdown on his opponents.
Western sanctions have been imposed on Belarus over the years in relation to that alleged crackdown and election fraud. Minsk also allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to send troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year.
The individuals and entities targeted in the U.S. sanctions include three state-owned enterprises and the director and a subsidiary of one of those enterprises, the Treasury Department said.
It added the sanctions also targeted four employees of a Belarus government agency, three individuals facilitating sanctions evasion in support of Lukashenko's government, and one aircraft identified as blocked property.
Among the companies targeted was the state-owned Belavia Belarusian Airlines and Byelorussian Steel Works Management Company, which produces steel products and was previously sanctioned by the European Union as well.
A Florida-based joint venture with Byelorussian Steel Works named BEL-KAP-STEEL LLC was also sanctioned by the Treasury Department, the Treasury Department said.
Belarus, led by Lukashenko since 1994, is Russia's staunchest ally among ex-Soviet states. In May, Russia moved ahead with a decision to deploy tactical nuclear weapons on Belarusian territory.
The Treasury Department on Wednesday also issued two general licenses related to Belarus.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh, Susan Heavey and Rami Ayyub in WashingtonEditing by Caitlin Webber, Nick Macfie and Matthew Lewis)