The European Union will consider further sanctions against President Alexander Lukashenko’s administration when its leaders meet for dinner in Brussels on Monday evening for the start of a two-day summit.
The EU was already working on an additional sanctions package following a contested election last year and will now seek to increase the pressure on Belarus. Potential measures could include suspending flights over Belarus, banning the country’s national airline from landing at EU airports and blocking land transit to the EU from Belarus, according to a person close to preparations for the summit.
For now, even as Ryanair calls the interception an “act of air piracy”, the Irish carrier – like many other airlines – is still flying over Belarusian airspace.
Read more: How Belarus snatched a dissident off a Ryanair plane from Greece
- Ryanair plane hijacked to Minsk under escort of Mig-29 fighter jet
- Belarusian journalist removed from plane in Belarusian capital
- US, EU and UK leaders condemn actions of Belarusian authorities
- Russia defends Belarus, its closest ally
- Flights over Belarusian airspace continue
All times are in Central European Time.
Poland strengthens protection for activists (1:30 p.m.)
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski said on Monday that his country was putting in place “special protection” for militants on Polish territory who “might find themselves in the crosshairs of Belarusian or Russian services”.
Raman Pratasevich, arrested after the hijacking of the Ryanair plane to Minsk, worked for Nexta, a registered media group that left Warsaw.
Jablonski urged activists to avoid contact with Belarus because “we cannot say what the regime is capable of. “
France says all options are being considered (1:20 p.m.)
“Nothing is on the table,” a French diplomat told reporters when asked about possible punitive measures against Belarus.
In addition to sanctions targeting Belarusian officials and companies, the EU is considering the suspension of overflights of European airlines over Belarus, a landing ban for the airline Belavia at European airports and the suspension of transits ( including land) from Belarus to the EU, added the French diplomat, asking not to be appointed in accordance with policy.
Ryanair flies over Belarus today (1:10 p.m.)
Flight FR3340 from Paphos, Cyprus, is scheduled to land in Talinn, Estonia at 2:30 p.m. local time. The route takes the plane directly through Belarusian territory, highlighting mixed messages coming out of Europe in response to Sunday’s incident.
The airspace over Belarus is part of a major route for flights between Asia and Europe, with some carriers, including Deutsche Lufthansa AG and freight carrier FedEx Corp., which continue to fly over the country Monday. Airlines have routed traffic over Belarus to avoid the rough region of eastern Ukraine, which has been banned since a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was shot down there in 2014, killing 298 people.
Poland Orders Survey (12:20 p.m.)
Poland’s prosecutor said he ordered an investigation into the landing because the Ryanair plane was registered in Poland and therefore fell under Polish jurisdiction.
Estonia to raise issue at United Nations Security Council (12:00 p.m.)
Estonia plans to raise the issue of Belarus in the Security Council and has already started consultations to discuss it, state broadcaster ERR said, citing the country’s Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets.
Ryanair cooperates with the EU and NATO (11:50 a.m.)
The hijacking of the Ryanair plane to Minsk on Sunday was an “act of air piracy,” the airline said in a statement today.
Ryanair said it was “fully cooperating” with EU safety and security agencies as well as with NATO, and would not comment for security reasons.
Kremlin Says US-Russian Summit Plans Unaffected (11:45 a.m.)
Tensions between Moscow’s closest ally and the West over Minsk forcing a Ryanair plane to land will not affect Russia’s efforts to hold a summit meeting between President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
“I wouldn’t combine all of this into one system,” Peskov told reporters on a conference call. “They are different things, after all.”
Peskov declined to comment on details of the case, including whether Belarus had warned Russia of its decision to force the plane to land or whether Moscow agents were involved. “Our special services are at the closest possible contact,” he said, adding that he did not have detailed information about the Ryanair plane.
Russia calls Western reaction “shocking” (11:15 am)
Western countries are showing double standards, according to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. “It is shocking that the West is calling the incident in Belarusian airspace ‘shocking’,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
Zakharova cited past examples of what she said were Western governments forcing planes to land, such as a 2013 episode where Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane had to land in Austria as the United States searched for Edward. Snowden, as proof that the United States and its allies are using the same tactics.
UK joins calls for sanctions (10:40 a.m.)
Foreign Minister Dominic Raab added to voices calling for further sanctions against Belarus and the immediate release of Protasevich. In a statement, Raab condemned the arrest, adding that “Mr. Lukashenko must be held responsible for his extravagant actions. ”
Russian Senator defends Belarus (10:35 a.m.)
“Formally, there was a bomb threat, so everything was done correctly,” said Vladimir Dzhabarov, first vice-president of the international affairs committee of the upper house of parliament on Monday. “I see nothing unusual or unacceptable in the actions of the Belarusian authorities.”
The arrest of Raman Pratasevich, the journalist, was justified, he said. “This person was sitting abroad and criticizing his homeland,” he said. “This is a warning for Tsikhanouskaya,” he said, referring to exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
EU Mulls Sanction Options (10:25 am)
Of the possible options for EU action, sanctions against individuals and entities would likely be the simplest, according to a senior official close to the EU talks.
Other options, such as suspending all EU airline flights over Belarus and suspending all transit – including ground travel – between Belarus and the EU, would result in increased costs for European businesses, the official said.
“This was a state-funded hijacking case,” said Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair. in the comments broadcast by RTE Radio. The airline is due to do a “detailed debriefing today with NATO and EU authorities” after the incident, which it said saw passengers and crew detained in armed custody.
It appears that the intention of Belarusian authorities was to fire a journalist and his traveling companion, O’Leary said. “We believe that some KGB agents were also offloaded from the plane,” he said.
Irish Minister calls for a firm response from the EU (10:00 am)
“It was in fact state-sponsored air piracy,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told RTE Radio. The EU’s response “must be clear, firm and must intervene quickly,” he said.
Belarus bonds tumble (9:30 a.m.)
Concerns about potential sanctions are scaring bond investors. Belarusian dollar-denominated bonds due 2031 fell early Monday, pushing yields 23 basis points to a one-month high of 7.48%. The bonds traded above 8% yield in August after authorities cracked down on protesters over Lukashenko’s demand for a landslide election victory.
Flights to avoid in Belarus (9:25 am)
Eastern Europe’s largest low-cost carrier Wizz Air Holdings Plc said it had redirected service from the Ukrainian capital Kiev to Tallinn in Estonia to avoid Belarusian airspace. A spokesperson said in an email that the Budapest-based company “is constantly monitoring and evaluating the situation”.
Latvian national carrier Airbaltic has decided to avoid Belarusian airspace “for the time being,” Latvian Transport Minister Talis Linkaits said in an interview with Latvijas radio.
Poland calls for more sanctions against Lukashenko (9:22 a.m.)
Belarus’s neighbor Poland will propose new sanctions against Lukashenko’s government at Monday’s EU meeting, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski. He declined to say what kind of measures Warsaw will seek, saying the government wanted to consult with EU partners first.
– Avec l’aide d’Alberto Nardelli, Ott Ummelas, Maciej Onoszko, Christopher Jasper, Hanna Hoikkala, Ilya Arkhipov, John Follain, Kitty Donaldson, Gregory White, Jeremy Diamond, Siddharth Vikram Philip et Nikos Chrysoloras