EU agrees on economic sanctions in Belarus over Ryanair flight incident

In response to the emergency landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk last month and the arrest of an opposition activist who was on board, the European Union reached an agreement on economic sanctions against Belarus, say the Austrian government and EU diplomats.

That said the Austrian Foreign Ministry in a statement on June 18 that the agreement “sends a clear and targeted signal against the intolerable repression of the Belarusian regime”, while Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg tweeted that the sanctions were “robust and targeted”.

At a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on 21.

If EU governments agree at the political level, according to Reuters, the sanctions would include a ban on new loans, trading in securities or buying short-term bonds for EU investors, the provision of investment services by EU banks and EU export credits.

The news agency said EU experts had also agreed on a stricter arms embargo and a ban on the export of communications equipment that could be used for espionage to Belarus.

The proposed sanctions also reportedly include a ban on the import of potash, a major Belarusian export, as well as restrictions on EU purchases of tobacco products, oil and oil-related products from Belarus.

The June 18 agreement overcame Austria’s opposition to the Belarusian financial sector, as it was feared it could harm Austrian banks with close ties to Belarus, diplomats said.

The EU has already responded to the rerouting of the Ryanair flight between two EU countries by banning Belarusian airlines from EU airports and airspaces. The European Aviation Authority has also asked other airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace.

EU foreign policy official Josep Borrell previously told members of the European Parliament that the bloc would likely impose economic sanctions on Belarus later this month.

On May 23, Belarusian authorities deployed a military jet to escort the passenger flight through its airspace to land in Minsk in what is viewed by many countries as a “state hijacking”. After the plane landed, law enforcement officials immediately arrested Opposition blogger Raman Pratasevich and his Russian friend Sofia Sapega.

Belarus’ move came amid brutal crackdown by the Belarusian authorities against demonstrations against the controversial results of a presidential election in August 2020.

Election officials say Lukashenka won a sixth term, but the European Union, the United States and other countries refuse to recognize the official result and do not consider Lukashenka to be the country’s legitimate leader.

With coverage from Reuters

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