EU Council Imposes Sanctions on Belarus after ‘state-organised hijacking’ of Plane
The European Council has proposed an air traffic ban on Belarus amid outrage over the arrest of opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, after a Ryanair flight he was travelling on was forced to make an emergency landing in Minsk.
The ban will prevent Belarusian airlines from flying in the airspace of the 27 EU member states and prevent them from landing at airports in the EU.
It was among a range of sanctions, including economic penalties, that were agreed at a European Council meeting in Brussels this evening, which was planned prior to yesterday’s incident.
The 27 EU leaders demanded an immediate release of Protasevich and called on the United Nations’ aviation agency – the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – to look into the case.
In their unusually swift action in Brussels, the EU leaders on Monday also urged all EU-based carriers to avoid flying over Belarus, decided to impose sanctions on officials linked to the flight diversion, and urged the International Civil Aviation Organisation to start an investigation into what they see as an unprecedented move and what some said amounted to state terrorism or piracy.
Earlier this evening, the ICAO called an urgent council meeting to discuss the incident. The meeting is set to take place on Thursday.
The leaders called on their council “to adopt the necessary measures to ban overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines and prevent access to EU airports of flights operated by such airlines.”
In addition to Protasevich, they also urged authorities in Minsk to release his Russian girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, who was taken off the plane with him.
The text was endorsed quickly by the leaders who were determined to respond with a “strong reaction” to the incident because of the “serious endangering of aviation safety and passengers on board by Belarusian authorities,” according to an EU official with direct knowledge of the discussions who was not authorised to speak publicly about the private talks.
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