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Wednesday, December 1st, 2021

U.S. imposes sanctions on Belarus in response to forced landing of Ryanair flight

The Ryanair plane carrying opposition figure Raman Pratasevich lands at the International Airport outside Vilnius, Lithuania. | Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo

 

The sanctions were coordinated with Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The Biden administration announced a wave of sanctions on Monday targeting Belarusian individuals and entities tied to the arrest of an opposition journalist who was apprehended from a commercial flight that was forced to land in Belarus last month.

The new sanctions were launched in coordination with Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The sanctions include visa restrictions imposed by the State Department on 46 Belarusian officials “for their involvement in undermining or injuring institutions in Belarus,” making them “generally ineligible” to enter the U.S.

“We are united in calling for the regime to end its repressive practices against its own people,” the American, Canadian and British governments, as well as the European External Action Service, said in a joint statement on Monday. “We are disappointed the regime has opted to walk away from its human rights obligations, adherence to democratic principles, and engagement with the international community.”

The coordinated sanctions announced Monday add to penalties the Biden administration imposed last month in response to Belarus’ arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich and his partner. Pratasevich was aboard a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania on May 23 when Belarusian authorities faked a bomb threat against the airliner and scrambled jets to force it to land. With the plane on the ground, Pratasevich and his partner were arrested by Belarusian authorities.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, in office since 1994, has faced increased scrutiny since his reelection last August, a vote widely seen as fraudulently won. Lukashenko’s government has cracked down on protesters with mass arrests. Some opposition leaders have left the country.

The joint statement issued Monday by the U.S., Canada, U.K. and EU included a call for the Lukashenko regime to cooperate with international investigations into the May 23 flight landing and release all political prisoners.

The Treasury Department also designated 16 more individuals and five more entities through Executive Order 13405, a George W. Bush-era order aimed at “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Undermining Democratic Processes or Institutions in Belarus.”

“The United States continues to support international efforts to investigate electoral irregularities in the 2020 Belarusian Presidential election and the violent crackdown and abuses that ensued,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “We stand with the people of Belarus in support of their fundamental freedoms.”

Per the State Department, since the Aug. 9 election, the U.S. has designated 155 Belarusian and Russian nationals under PP 8015, a Bush-era proclamation that restricted the travel of members of the Lukashenko government and other officials involved in actions that “undermine or injure democratic institutions or impede the transition to democracy in Belarus.”

 

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