The US Department of Transportation (DOT) prohibited the sale of passenger air transportation, including air transportation on an interline basis (e.g. tickets booked through one airline that contain flights operated by multiple airlines), between the United States and Belarus.
The department proposed to impose a ban of selling such flights as far back as June 29; now the decision has come into force
The corresponding document reads that the US government may make an exception if the operation of any transportation will be in the national interests of the United States, including on humanitarian or national security grounds.
According to DOT, the order was premised on the Department of State’s determination that it is in the foreign policy interests of the United States to limit transportation between the US and Belarus in light of the diversion of Ryanair flight 4978.
On May 23, a Ryanair’s Boeing 737-8AS flying over Belarus 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. Emigre journalist Raman Pratasevich and his companion, 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 response, 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. In the wake of the controversial situation, the Council of the European Union decided to strengthen the existing restrictive measures in view of the situation in Belarus by introducing a ban on the overflight of EU airspace and on access to EU airports by Belarusian carriers of all kinds.
On June 3, the United States re-imposed blocking sanctions on nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises that previously received benefits under a series of Treasury Department general licenses. As a result of this measure, US persons will be prohibited from engaging in transactions with these entities, their property or interests in their property, the statement said. On June 22, the US expanded the sanctions list, including 16 Belarusian individuals and five entities.