In connection with the abduction of Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich in Minsk, the EU leaders called for additional urgent sanctions against Belarus and avoidance of overflight of Belarus by European carriers.

This was announced by Spokesperson for the European Council President Barend Leyts.

The decision has yet to be agreed upon and approved by the Council of the European Union at the ministerial level.

In particular, the European Council:

  • demands the immediate release of Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega and that their freedom of movement be guaranteed;
  • calls on the International Civil Aviation Organisation to urgently investigate this unprecedented and unacceptable incident;
  • invites the Council to adopt additional listings of persons and entities as soon as possible on the basis of the relevant sanctions framework;
  • calls on the Council to adopt further targeted economic sanctions;
  • calls on all EU-based carriers to avoid overflight of Belarus;
  • calls on the 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.

The international community strongly condemned the actions by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenka. High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell stated, “This is completely unacceptable. We hold the government of Belarus responsible for the security of all passengers and the aircraft. All passengers must be able to continue their travel immediately.”

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki noted, “Hijacking a civilian plane is an unprecedented act of state terrorism that cannot go unpunished.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, “This is a serious and dangerous incident that requires international investigation.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the United States called for an international investigation.

Poland has now suspended flights over Belarus and urges the other EU Member States to do so. Yesterday, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky also instructed the government to prepare a decision to suspend air traffic with Belarus.

The heads of the foreign affairs committees of the parliaments of eight countries also called for the flights to be suspended. This statement has been published on the website of the U.S. Senate and is signed by parliamentarians of the United States, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Ireland, Great Britain, and Poland.

On 23 May, founder of the Nexta opposition Telegram channel Raman Pratasevich, who was on flight from Athens to Vilnius, was detained in Minsk. The plane made an emergency landing after reports of a bomb threat on board.

Natalia Tolub

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