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: EU summit to discuss Belarus sanctions after ‘state-sponsored hijacking’ of passenger plane


European Union leaders will discuss retaliatory measures against Belarus at a summit dinner on Monday night, after the country’s president Alexander Lukashenko scrambled a jet fighter to force a Ryanair


flight carrying a dissident journalist to land in Minsk on Sunday.

  • The Irish plane was on a regular flight from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, and was forced to land by Belarusian authorities after a bomb scare, later ruled a false alarm, was triggered by some passengers.
  • Activist Roman Protasevich, 26, a passenger on the plane, was arrested by Belarusian police upon landing, before the plane was allowed to resume its journey.
  • “This was effectively aviation piracy, state sponsored,” said Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney, reflecting the opinion of other European policy makers.
  • Dominic Raab, the U.K. foreign secretary, said Monday that all British-registered planes would stop flying over Belarus, as transport secretary Grant Shapps suspended the operating permit for Belavia, the country’s state-owned airline.
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted Sunday night that “the outrageous and illegal behavior of the regime in Belarus will have consequences,” and demanded that Protasevich “be released immediately.”
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked for an immediate meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization, and said the U.S. was coordinating with allies on the next steps, with NATO calling the incident “serious and dangerous.”
  • Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said he believed agents of the Belarusian security services were traveling on the plane, confirming earlier reports that four other passengers had disembarked in Minsk.

From the archives (August 2020): Here’s why the Belarus protests and the re-election of ‘Europe’s last dictator’ matter

The outlook: The EU was already discussing tightening further the sanctions decided against the Lukashenko regime, after last year’s fraught presidential elections. Several chairs of foreign affairs committees in some EU national parliaments have already called for a total ban on all flights in and out of the country.

The French government said a request had been sent to the International Civil Aviation Organization to suspend international flights over Belarusian airspace. Europeans will also consider, among other measures, banning the state carrier Belavia from EU airports, as well as sanctions affecting ground transport.

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