The United States has moved to punish Belarus for forced landing of a Ryanair flight last Sunday announcing that it will replace sanctions on nine of the country’s state-owned airlines and join the EU in developing a list of additional targets.
In a statement late Friday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Washington was taking steps “together with our partners and allies, to hold the regime accountable for its actions and to demonstrate our commitment to the aspirations of the people of Belarus. “
On Sunday, Belarusian authorities diverted a Ryanair jet traveling between Greece and Lithuania to Minsk in order to detain a dissident on board.
The brazen move sparked a wave of condemnation from the West against the president Alexander LukashenkoThe government, which is closely allied with Russia and its president Vladimir Putin, and swift action by the EU to punish Belarus. The United States has been slower to respond, but on Friday it began to act.
Psaki said that as of June 3, the United States will replace “complete blockade sanctions” against nine Belarusian state-owned companies that had previously received sanctions aid from the U.S. Treasury Department. .
In addition, the White House press secretary said the United States was “developing a list of targeted sanctions against key members” of the regime in Belarus which were “associated with ongoing human rights abuses and corruption, the falsification of the 2020 elections and the events of May 23.”
Psaki added that the Treasury department will also prepare an executive order for President Joe Biden to sign authorizing “US authorities to impose sanctions on elements” of the regime in Belarus and “its support network, and those who support corruption, human rights abuses and attacks on democracy ”.
The crackdown on Washington also includes a warning from the U.S. State Department for U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to Belarus, and a warning for U.S. passenger airlines to “exercise extreme caution when planning to fly in the United States. Belarusian airspace ”- although it does not appear to be a direct ban.
Earlier this week the EU agreed to expand sanctions against Belarus and banned its state-owned airline from blocking airports in response to the intercepted flight. Brussels has also demanded the immediate release of Roman Protasevich, a senior militant, and his partner, Sofia Sapega, who were detained after the Ryanair flight was forced to land in Minsk.
Washington’s move could complicate the advance to a top between Biden and Putin which will be held in Geneva in mid-June in an effort by the two countries to repair relations that have deteriorated rapidly in recent months.