Biden administration to reimpose sanctions on Belarus over diverted flight

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The Biden administration on Friday announced the U.S. will reimpose sanctions against Belarus and warned Americans against traveling to the country after its leader, Alexander Lukashenko, had a plane diverted so an opposition activist could be arrested upon landing.

The White House announced a series of steps it will take in response to the diversion of the plane, which press secretary Jen Psaki and President Biden had previously condemned.

Effective next Thursday, the U.S. will reimpose full blocking sanctions against nine state-owned enterprises in Belarus that were previously given relief from sanctions. The new penalties will prevent Americans from engaging with those companies. The reimposition of sanctions will further isolate the Lukashenko regime, which is already subject to international sanctions.

The Treasury Department will simultaneously develop a new executive order giving Biden greater authority to sanction the Lukashenko regime and its support network.

The State Department has also issued a “do not travel” warning to U.S. citizens, advising against travel to Belarus. The Federal Aviation Administration has also advised U.S. airlines to “exercise extreme caution when considering flying in Belarusian airspace.”

Psaki in a statement said the administration will continue working with its European allies and international groups like the United Nations, NATO and the Group of Seven (G-7) to advocate for action against Lukashenko.

“Belarus’s forced diversion of a commercial Ryanair flight under false pretenses, traveling between two member states of the European Union, and the subsequent removal and arrest of Raman Pratasevich, a Belarusian journalist, are a direct affront to international norms,” Psaki said in a statement. “These events took place amid an escalating wave of repression by the Lukashenka regime against the aspirations of the people of Belarus for democracy and human rights.”

A Ryanair flight heading from Greece to Vilnius, Lithuania, was diverted last Sunday after Belarusian air traffic control sent out a security alert under false pretenses.

When the flight landed in Belarus, 26-year-old opposition activist and journalist Rama Pratasevich was detained. Pratasevich fled the country in 2019 and has become an influential opposition voice against Lukashenko.

The diversion of the flight, which was reportedly also carrying Belarusian agents, drew international condemnation.

European Union leaders on Monday said they would impose additional economic sanctions on Belarus.

The United Kingdom directed its airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace in response to the incident. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda urged the EU to levy additional sanctions against Lukashenko in response to the diversion.

Ryanair condemned the incident as a “state-sponsored hijacking.”

Tags Belarus belarus flight Jen Psaki Joe Biden

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