Status: 04.06.2021 at 5:17 PM.
EU serious about harsh penalties against Belarus: As of Saturday, its entire airspace will be closed to planes leaving the country. The former Soviet republic also imposed sanctions – initially against the United States.
The European Union continues to expand its punitive measures against Belarus. From Saturday, the entire European airspace in the former Soviet republic is to be closed to air traffic. This means that Belarusian airlines are not allowed to fly into airports within the European Union, nor are allowed to cross EU-related airspace en route to other destinations.
The closure of the airspace had already been proposed by the EU Commission at the EU summit in late May. But before the sanctions could be implemented, all EU member states had to agree. This happened today, as announced by the spokesperson of the European Union.
State-owned Belarusian airline Belavia announced its own agreement ahead of the decision that it would suspend all flights to Germany, Poland, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain and Belgium for the time being. In Germany, for example, contacts with Frankfurt, Berlin, Hanover and Munich were affected. Belavia typically flies to about 20 cities in the European Union.
Ryanair’s forced landing sparked outrage
The backdrop of harsh punitive measures is the forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk nearly two weeks ago. Belarusian blogger Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega were arrested at the airport.
protasvitsch has been in custody since. Recently, the Belarusian state broadcaster ONT Broadcast one and a half hour interview with blogger, in which he expressed himself very positively about the head of state Alexander Lukashenko and again admitted that he called for protests that criticize the government. Protasevich’s family and opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja, who lives in exile in Poland, suspect she was tortured for making the statement.
Germany and the European Union had a forced landing by fighter jets and the arrest of Protasevich condemned in the strongest. Several airlines, including Lufthansa, responded by suspending their flights to Belarus.
America is also imposing sanctions
As a result of the blogger’s arrest, the United States also threatened to further tighten the sanctions imposed against Belarus. The government led by US President Joe Biden had already passed punitive measures against nine other Belarusian companies in April. The US had earlier asked the Belarusian government to release political prisoners arrested during mass protests.
In Belarus, people have taken to the streets against the head of state since Lukashenko’s controversial re-election last August. The opposition accused Lukashenko of electoral fraud. The European Union also did not recognize the election result and is also considering it fraud.
Belarus responds with a policy of retaliation
In return, Belarus has now responded by retaliating against the United States. Accordingly, the United States will have to cut its diplomatic staff in Minsk and tighten visa procedures for American citizens. In addition, the Belarusian authorities revoked the work permit for the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry called the US punitive measures illegal. They would contradict international law and aim to pressure a sovereign state.