EU calls for sanctions on airlines and tourism companies that help migrants enter Belarus

The European Union expects the introduction of the fifth package of sanctions against Belarus. However, the contested land will not be their only destination.

The EU plans to target airlines and tour groups for the sanctions after the organization accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of targeting migrants to destabilize neighboring countries. According to a draft sanction obtained by the Associated Press, the companies concerned are accused of assisting Belarus in bringing migrants into the country. From there, rural migrants would be encouraged to cross international borders into Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

The Belarusian airline Belavia was mainly named in the new sanctions as the main airline carrying migrants. The document states that “migrants wishing to cross the Union’s external border will be arriving on Belavia-operated flights from a number of Middle Eastern countries, notably Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey Minsk have flown “.

Other companies named in the sanctions are Cham Wing Airlines, the state tourism company Tsentrkurort, the passport and visa distributor VIP Grub and the Belarusian President Property Management Directorate.

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, speaking to the EU on Wednesday, has expressed her approval of the proposed sanctions.

“Sanctions are working,” she told the EU heads of state and government. “Sanctions divide the elites, destroy corruption plans and divide the people around Lukashenko.”

The sanctions against Belarus and the companies accused of the aid are to be approved in the coming days.

More coverage from The Associated Press can be found below.

According to a draft sanction obtained by the Associated Press, the companies concerned are accused of assisting Belarus in bringing migrants into the country. From there, rural migrants would be encouraged to cross international borders into Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. Above, Iraqis speak to the press upon arrival at Baghdad airport after being killed on Jan.
Photo by Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP via Getty Images

Zikhanouskaya on Wednesday appealed to the European Union not to forget the plight of ordinary citizens and political prisoners in the former Soviet country as the EU prepares new sanctions to prevent a border security crisis attributed to Lukashenko.

Tsikhanouskaya told EU lawmakers that “882 of my fellow citizens have been recognized for exercising basic political rights that are taken for granted in the rest of Europe.” She called on the bloc of 27 countries not to recognize Lukashenko or his government and to increase support for ordinary citizens.

“It’s getting late. Since August 2020 there have been plenty of gestures and expressions of solidarity. The Belarusians have been praised for reviving their belief in democracy and human dignity,” she said. “Isn’t it up to the Europeans to demonstrate their commitment to these values ​​with deeds?”

Cham Wing Airlines operates flights from Syria to Belarus. She is accused of ramping up flights from Damascus to Minsk in the summer and setting up new offices in the Belarusian capital in order to better organize the shuttles.

The EU claims that Tsentrkurort helped at least 51 Iraqis obtain visas for Belarus and organized bus transports to the borders for them.

Hotel Minsk and Hotel Planeta, affiliated with the Belarusian President’s Property Management Directorate, are accused of hosting migrants who want to cross the border.

The draft sanctions list states that VIP Grub “organizes trips to Belarus with the express intention of facilitating migration to the EU. VIP Grub is actively promoting migration to the EU.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine launched a special operation on its border with Belarus to increase security to prevent migrants from entering. It comes when hundreds of people, mostly from the Middle East, remain stranded on the Polish border in Belarus and are trapped when forces from the two countries face each other.

The Ukrainian authorities announced last Friday that they had intercepted 15 people of Middle Eastern descent trying to enter from Belarus – the first such incident at the Ukrainian border since the security crisis flared up at the EU borders.

Ukraine shares a 1,084-kilometer border with Belarus, and Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy has announced plans to build a fence on the borders with Belarus and Russia following the incident.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya at EU
Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya speaks in front of the European Parliament on November 24, 2021 in Strasbourg, France.
AP Photo / Jean-Francois Badias

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