US aims targeted sanctions at Belarus after journalist held

Published on May 30, 2021 06:17 AM IST

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US was also suspending a 2019 agreement between Washington and Minsk that allowed carriers from each country to use the other’s airspace, and taking other actions against the government of President Alexander Lukashenko.

A woman holds a poster during a demonstration demanding the freedom of Belarus opposition activist Raman Protasevich in Berlin.(AP)
A woman holds a poster during a demonstration demanding the freedom of Belarus opposition activist Raman Protasevich in Berlin.(AP)
Agencies | , Washington

The Biden administration said on Friday it is drawing up a list of targeted sanctions against key members of the Belarusian government following the former Soviet republic’s forced landing of a passenger jet and arrest of an opposition journalist on board.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US was also suspending a 2019 agreement between Washington and Minsk that allowed carriers from each country to use the other’s airspace, and taking other actions against the government of President Alexander Lukashenko.

She called on Lukashenko to allow a credible international investigation into the events of May 23, when the Ryanair passenger jet flying from Greece to Lithuania was forced to land in Minsk. Belarusian authorities scrambled a fighter jet and flagged what turned out to be a false bomb alert to force the plane to land, then detained Roman Protasevich, a journalist who was on board.

Psaki said the US, with the EU and other allies, was preparing a list of targeted sanctions against key members of Lukashenko’s government “associated with abuses of human rights and corruption, the falsification of the 2020 election, and the events of May 23”.

The White House also issued a “Do Not Travel” warning for Belarus to US citizens, and warned American passenger planes to “exercise caution” if considering flying over Belarusian airspace.

The European Union has also urged EU-based carriers to avoid Belarusian airspace.

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