On the back of the grave air incident involving the EU-based Ryanair aircraft, the European Union is preparing sanctions on Belarus’ national airline and around a dozen top Belarusian aviation officials, Reuters reports with reference to three diplomats.
According to the news agency, EU member states are set to target the sectors of the Belarusian economy, i.e. the oil sector, the export of potash, bond sales, in order to inflict ‘real punishment’ on Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Before imposing such economic sanctions, the Union is expected to agree a smaller sanctions list on individuals and two entities as an intermediary response by the EU foreign ministers’ meeting scheduled for June 21, Reuters’ diplomatic sources said.
One of them stressed that all EU member states agreed with this approach; another diplomat noted that such step would be ‘a clear signal for Lukashenka that his actions were dangerous and unacceptable’.
“While the sanctions are still under discussion, EU ambassadors as early as Friday could pre-approve banning overflights and landing in EU territory by Belarus airlines, allowing EU ministers to formally sign off on them later in the month,” the article by Reuters’ Robin Emmot reads.
The author recalls that the United Kingdom which is no longer part of the EU has already suspended the air permit for Belavia, Belarus’ national carrier. The bloc is expected to do the same, added the diplomats whom Reuters interviewed.
On May 23, a Ryanair’s Boeing 737-8AS flying over Belarus en route from Athens to Vilnius was forced to land in Minsk by the local authorities claiming that they got the information about a bomb planted onboard. Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka personally gave the order; to ‘escort’ the passenger carrier, a MiG-29 fighter was scrambled. It should be noted that the plane was not far from the Belarusian-Lithuanian air border at that moment; it was at a distance of 90 km from Vilnius and about 200 km – from Minsk. opposition blogger Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend, Russian citizen Sofia Sapega, were arrested by security services in the Belarusian capital city. The operation of forcibly landing the Ryanair airplane seems to have been deliberately planned and performed by pro-Lukashenka secret services.
In the wake of the controversial situation, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary slammed Belarusian officials, labelling the steps taken by them as ‘state-sponsored hijacking’.
The outrageous incident has triggered a mighty international row. Politicians, diplomats, international organisations denounced the actions of the Lukashenka regime. The participants in the European Council meeting held on May, 24 strongly condemned the recent forced landing of the flight and, among other things, called for adopting the necessary measures to ban overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines and prevent access to EU airports of flights operated by them. US President Joe Biden called the grounding of the Ryanair plane and the arrest of the journalist ‘shameful assaults on political dissent’.
On May 27, G7 foreign ministers and EU High Representative Josep Borrell announced ‘enhancing efforts to promote accountability for the actions of the Belarus authorities’.
belsat.eu, following reuters.com