Belarus sanctioned after hijacking Ryanair flight to arrest journalist – .

EU leaders agree on sanctions in Belarus after hijacking – fr

In this file photo from Sunday, March 26, 2017, Belarusian police arrest journalist Raman Pratasevich, in the center, in Minsk, Belarus.
Sergei Grits | PA
WASHINGTON – The Biden administration imposed a series of sanctions against Belarus on Monday amid Western fury over the forced hijacking of a Ryanair flight to arrest an opposition journalist.
Last month, an airliner connecting Greece and Lithuania was suddenly diverted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The Ryanair flight was escorted to Minsk by a Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jet. Upon landing, authorities arrested opposition journalist Roman Protasevich.

The extraordinary hijacking of a commercial airliner has been described by some leaders of the European Union as a “hijack”. The bloc of 27 countries quickly imposed sanctions on Belarus, including banning its airlines from using EU airspace and airports.

The State Department has now followed suit, imposing sanctions on 46 Belarusian officials for their involvement in the arrest of Protasevich. In addition, the Treasury announced sanctions against 16 people and five entities.

“These measures are also in response to the continued repression in Belarus, including attacks on human rights, democratic processes and fundamental freedoms,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote in a statement on Monday, adding that the sanctions were aligned with Canada, the Union and the United Kingdom.

“These coordinated designations demonstrate the unwavering transatlantic commitment to supporting the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people,” Blinken wrote.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a staunch supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has faced numerous calls for resignation following a contested election that returned him to a sixth term. Almost daily protests rocked Belarus for nearly three months.

“Those named today harmed the Belarusian people through their activities around the fraudulent presidential election of August 9, 2020 in Belarus and the resulting brutal crackdown on protesters, journalists, opposition members and civil society, ”the Treasury wrote in a statement.

Members of the Belarusian diaspora and Ukrainian activists burn white and red smoke grenades during a rally in support of Belarusians protesting against vote rigging in the presidential election, outside the Belarusian embassy in Kiev on August 13, 2020 .
Sergueï Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images
Among those sanctioned on Monday by the United States are some of Lukashenko’s closest collaborators: his press secretary Natallia Eismant and the former chief of staff Natallia Kachanava who is currently his presidential envoy in Minsk, Mikalai Karpiankou, Belarusian deputy minister of Home Affairs and the current Belarusian Police Force Commander and Belarusian Prosecutor General Andrei Shved.

The United States has also imposed sanctions on the State Security Committee of the Republic of Belarus, also known as the Belarusian KGB.

“The Belarusian KGB detained, intimidated and pressured the opposition, to include Pratasevich,” the Treasury wrote in a statement, adding that the organization had stepped up its offenses following Lukashenko’s fraudulent election in 2020 .

The Treasury also sanctioned internal troops of the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Belarus, a Belarusian police force, for the violent crackdown on peaceful protesters since the 2020 presidential election.

Sanctions against Russia’s ally Belarus follow President Joe Biden’s first face-to-face meeting with his Russian counterpart in Switzerland, where the two agreed to resume nuclear talks and return their ambassadors to their posts abroad.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that the United States was preparing additional sanctions against Russia following the imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

“We are preparing another package of sanctions to be applied in this matter,” Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday show. “It will come as soon as we develop the packages to make sure we get the right targets,” he added.

Concern over Navalny’s imprisonment and his worsening state of health is the latest drumbeat in the already strained relations between Moscow and the West.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, accused of flouting the terms of a suspended sentence for embezzlement, attends a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, February 2, 2021.

Moscow municipal court | Reuters


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