May 25, 2022

US Targets Belarus with Sanctions Amid Western Outcry Over Plane | Voice of America

WASHINGTON – The United States on Friday announced punitive measures against Belarus targeting the regime of strongman President Alexander Lukashenko, who met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin amid a global outcry over the forced diversion of a European plane.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called for “a credible international investigation into the events of May 23,” which she called “a direct affront to international norms.”

Belarus scrambled a military jet to divert a Ryanair plane and arrested 26-year-old opposition blogger and activist Roman Protasevich who was onboard, triggering a global outcry.

The White House announced it was working with the European Union on a list of targeted sanctions against key members of Lukashenko’s regime.

Meanwhile, economic sanctions against nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises, reimposed by Washington in April following a crackdown on pro-democracy protests, will come into effect on June 3.

Further U.S. moves on Belarus could target “those that support corruption, the abuse of human rights, and attacks on democracy,” Psaki said.

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

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

However, President Vladimir Putin celebrated Russia’s close ties with Belarus on Friday as he hosted Lukashenko in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

With observers closely watching the talks to see how far the Kremlin would go to support the regime, the Russian leader said he was “very glad” to see Lukashenko and agreed with him the Western reaction was an “outburst of emotion.”

‘Rock the boat’

Lukashenko complained the West was seeking to stir unrest in Belarus.

“An attempt is underway to rock the boat to reach the level of last August,” he said, referring to anti-regime protests following a disputed election.

“It’s clear what these Western friends want from us.”

The Belarus strongman, who arrived with a briefcase, said he wanted to show Putin “some documents” related to the Ryanair incident and thanked him for his support in the latest standoff with the West.

The talks lasted for more than five hours but their results were not announced.

Over the past years Lukashenko has had a volatile relationship with Moscow, playing it off against the West and ruling out outright unification with Russia.

But after the Ryanair plane incident his options appear to be limited.

Putin and the Belarus leader have met regularly since August, when historic protests broke out against Lukashenko’s nearly three-decade rule.

The 66-year-old waged a ruthless crackdown on his opponents and has leaned increasingly on the Russian president amid condemnation from the West.

Several people died during the unrest in Belarus, thousands were detained, and hundreds reported torture in prison.

Sunday’s plane diversion was a dramatic escalation, with EU leaders accusing Minsk of essentially hijacking a European flight to arrest Protasevich.

Technical reasons

The overflight ban has led to several cancellations of air journeys between Russia and Europe, after Russian authorities rejected planes that would have skipped Belarusian airspace.

Russia insists the cancellations are purely “technical,” but they have raised concerns that Moscow could be systematically refusing to let European airlines land if they avoid Belarus.

The Kremlin criticized the flight ban as politically motivated and dangerous, with foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova calling it “completely irresponsible.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc was monitoring whether this was a broader policy from Russia, but Moscow insisted the disruptions were in no way political.

Belarus authorities claimed to have received a bomb threat against the Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius carrying the dissident.

Minsk said it demanded the flight land in the Belarus capital based on the message it said was sent from a ProtonMail address by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

Protasevich, who helped organize the demonstrations against Lukashenko’s rule last year, was arrested along with Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapega, 23, after the plane landed in the city.


Borrell has said proposals are “on the table” to target key sectors of the Belarusian economy including its oil products and potash sectors.

Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya on Friday urged the EU to be “braver” and impose more sanctions against the Minsk regime.

After meeting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague, Tikhanovskaya said measures being discussed by EU countries did not go far enough.

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen on Friday warned Lukashenko that “it is time to change course.”

“No amount of repression, brutality or coercion will bring any legitimacy to your authoritarian regime,” she said.

The European Commission president also wrote to the opposition offering a 3-billion-euro package to support “a democratic Belarus” if Lukashenko steps down.

in U.S.
Related Posts

Biden Honors Tulsa Massacre Victims  | Voice of America

June 2, 2021

June 2, 2021

President Joe Biden was in Oklahoma Tuesday, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to commemorate the anniversary of the Tulsa...

Virgin Galactic Shuttle’s First Rocket-powered Flight Reaches Edge of Space  | Voice of America

May 23, 2021

May 23, 2021

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO – Virgin Galactic on Saturday made its first rocket-powered flight from New Mexico to the fringe...

Harris Emphasizes Addressing ‘Root Causes’ of Migration | Voice of America

June 9, 2021

June 9, 2021

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris stressed the importance of fixing the “root causes” of migration in her final remarks during...

Augmented Reality Event Honors Breonna Taylor’s Memory | Voice of America

June 22, 2021

June 22, 2021

After the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in 2020, her sister Ju’Niyah Palmer not only had to deal with her...

Ex-Counsel Tells Congress of Trump Efforts to Undercut Russia Probe, Democrats Say  | Voice of America

June 5, 2021

June 5, 2021

WASHINGTON – A former White House counsel “shed new light” on the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S....

Taliban Warn Neighbors Against Hosting US Bases for Military Actions inside Afghanistan  | Voice of America

May 26, 2021

May 26, 2021

ISLAMABAD – The Taliban called on Afghanistan’s neighbors Wednesday not to allow the United States to use their territory or...

US Says Georgia Voting Law Targets Black Voters, Sues to Block It | Voice of America

June 25, 2021

June 25, 2021

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Justice Department will file a lawsuit on Friday challenging a Georgia election law that imposes new...

US Consumer Prices Jumped Sharply in May | Voice of America

June 10, 2021

June 10, 2021

WASHINGTON – U.S. consumer prices surged in May, jumping 5% from a year ago, the highest annual inflation rate in...

UN Chief Guterres Sworn In for Second Term | Voice of America

June 19, 2021

June 19, 2021

NEW YORK – Antonio Guterres was sworn in Friday for a second 5-year term as U.N. Secretary-General after the General...

Biden Takes on Gun Violence Warning of Summer Spike  | Voice of America

June 24, 2021

June 24, 2021

WHITE HOUSE – U.S. President Joe Biden vowed Wednesday to reduce gun violence as he warned the nation about a dangerous...

Memphis Erases Confederate General From its Public Spaces | Voice of America

June 20, 2021

June 20, 2021

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE – Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s polarizing presence has hung over Memphis since he moved here in 1852...

US Faces ‘Heightened Threat’ This Holiday Season, DHS Says

November 11, 2021

November 11, 2021

WASHINGTON —  The U.S. faces a “heightened threat environment” from domestic extremists and people inspired by foreign terrorist groups with...

US Donates 4.8 Million Vaccines to 4 African Nations

October 28, 2021

October 28, 2021

THE WHITE HOUSE —  The United States is sending more than 4.8 million coronavirus vaccine doses to four African nations,...

With Trump Suspension, Facebook Tells World Leaders: Your Speech Will Not Get a Pass   

June 9, 2021

June 9, 2021

Facebook’s recent decision to ban former president Donald Trump for two years sends a message to world leaders that Facebook...

US Drops Sanctions on Former Iranian Officials; Step Called Routine | Voice of America

June 10, 2021

June 10, 2021

The United States said Thursday it had removed sanctions on three former Iranian officials and two companies that previously traded...