Plane diverted by Belarus - Washington strengthens sanctions against Belarus

 Sylvie Claire / May 29, 2021

The United States confirmed on Friday a series of sanctions against Belarus, after the hijacking of a Ryanair flight last Sunday, and the arrest of a political opponent in Minsk and his companion.

 

In addition to measures already announced in recent weeks, Washington said in a statement that it was working with the European Union on a list of targeted sanctions against key members of the Lukashenko regime.The forced hijacking by Belarus, under false pretenses, of a commercial flight of Ryanair that was traveling between two member states of the European Union (Greece and Lithuania, editor's note) and the arrest of journalist Roman Protassevitch is a direct affront to international norms, said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki. Economic sanctions against nine Belarusian state-owned companies, reimposed in April following the crackdown on pro-democracy protests, will take effect on June 3. In the wake of disputed elections in 2006, Washington had banned all transactions with these companies. 

 

The U.S. Treasury then suspended these sanctions in 2015, welcoming some progress, but the U.S. government warned at the end of March that the suspension might not be renewed at the next deadline. Washington is also once again advising its citizens not to travel to Belarus: the country is classified at level 4, do not travel there.The EU is studying the possibility of sanctions against Belarus, which could target potash exports and the transit of Russian gas, two important sources of income for the country, said Thursday the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell. Brussels has asked airlines to bypass Belarus. Minsk maintains that the plane was diverted because of a bomb threat and that the arrest of Roman Protassevitch and his companion, Sofia Sapega, was a matter of chance. 

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